While technology-enabled care has received much focus in recent years, the deployment of digital technology is yet to become widespread amongst care providers. However, with analogue technology due to be switched off by 2025, making the move to digital technology is becoming increasingly necessary to ensure the continued reliability of services. Digital technology can also be used to great effect to increase the capacity of social care provision at a time when the sector is facing many challenges such as tight budgets, changed working practices due to COVID-19 and staff shortages.
Three areas where digital technology can help create capacity in children’s social care are:
- Helping staff work more efficiently
- Helping staff connect effectively with service users
- Helping deliver preventative care or early intervention
This has already been demonstrated in adult care services, assisting service providers to monitor the conditions and wellbeing of service users, provide support and advice, and identify issues as they emerge to prevent or delay the escalation of care needs.
So how can service providers make digital technology work for them?
Take advantage of the increase in remote working technology
Historically, many services have lacked the infrastructure needed to obtain benefit from digital technology, such as a lack of reliable internet access, mobile devices or secure remote access to systems and service user data. However, due to COVID, many care workers are now better set up to work remotely on a range of devices at home and in the community. Some organisations have also been providing devices for their service users.
Video technology has connected service users to providers, utilising existing consumer apps such as Zoom or Facetime. For example, in place of overnight sleeping arrangements service, users can instead make a call to a carer during the night if needed. Anecdotal feedback from social workers and service users is that these new ways of providing care have worked well during lockdown. The challenge is in retaining and growing this technology usage as pandemic restrictions ease, due to the potential in efficiency and improvement of services.
Use the technology to make better use of specialist skills
As well as allowing care workers to work more flexibly and replace some face-to-face work, digital technology can also allow providers to deliver support that hasn’t been possible previously. For example, technology provides greater flexibility in how calls with service users are routed, providing the potential for the setting up of specialist teams, potentially shared between care providers, that can focus on delivering specialised forms of support, addressing specific care needs or health conditions. This is already being explored as an option in adult care services to offer support for conditions such as diabetes, COPD, and mental health.
Make use of available, ready-to-use consumer apps and off-the-shelf solutions
More can be done to work with technology more effectively. We often help clients identify the Technology Enabled Care solutions that can deliver immediate benefits. There are many solutions already available with new ones frequently coming to market. While the focus can often be on large scale health and social care solutions, many off-the-shelf, consumer technologies, such as smart watches, smart phones and tablets, also provide real benefits and opportunities for quick wins.
Ensure that the needs of the service user are shaping tech usage – not the other way round
When considering technology solutions, it’s essential to remember that technology is a supporting tool that should be led by the service need and service users. Of course, technology will not solve all your problems and introducing innovation can seem quite complex at first. When working with clients at FarrPoint, we listen to them to understand their needs and only then determine the best use of technology to improve their care services, including the technical, security, data protection, and operational changes required. These considerations are necessary to make technology change a success. It is also recommended you consider a longer-term plan to move beyond the quick wins to a properly integrated and sustainable technology-enabled care provision. Start small, think big!
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