What does the future hold for the delivery of care services?

ian-wardIan Ward leads the Agilisys Care Innovation team who for almost the last decade have been creating digital solutions to help and engage citizens through developing an enhanced customer experience, in turn generating efficiencies and reducing costs.

This expertise is used to help local authorities transform care services through the power of digital technology.

In this short Q&A, Ian talks about the rapidly changing digital landscape, which is impacting how citizens access public services, the ever-increasing role that technology is playing in everyday life and how local authorities can transform the delivery of care services through the power of digital.

 

How is digital technology changing expectations about the way care is being delivered to those who need it most? 

I think technology these days has the potential to help people help themselves more readily and more effectively. People now expect technology to act as an ‘enabler’, which lets them live their lives with greater convenience through the likes of online banking, virtual shopping, fitbits, TV on demand, Siri and Google Now.

We also see technology creating new opportunities in the market place with apps such as Uber, Crowdfunding, Airbnb etc. So, when you combine the idea of choice with self-help tools we see how technology solutions are now expected in the world of social care too. In fact the real question here might be, why should the way we access care be any different from any other type of service?

There’s a constant flow of interesting developments that will assist people in this space and meet their expectations – just one example is Internet of Things (IoT) ‘telecare’, which not only checks that an individual receiving care is getting on okay, it also provides video communication between them, their relatives and community care workers. It can also monitor the activity of care-workers coming and going.

This level of monitoring not only reassures relatives and improves quality checks for providers, it also provides a wealth of data to inform preventative and early intervention initiatives, which can enable people to live in their own homes for longer.

The potential for this type of innovation is huge. Just imagine if we added an ‘Uber for volunteers’ functionality to the IoT ‘telecare’ application so people could find local volunteers to take them shopping on an evening a relative or friend cannot make it. By making use of assets in the community in this way, so technology can help people to be more independent and more resilient.

 

Is there a risk that using technology will mean that people don’t get to see their care givers regularly?  

While we can build monitors, assessments and payment tools that will improve efficiencies, save money and supply us with loads of great data, which allows us to fine tune care delivery, this can never be at the expense of the way people want to naturally interact.

The successful tools always fit into our natural, instinctive habits. And, naturally, to live healthy, satisfying lives we need social interaction with other humans – care givers aren’t the only people, we need to see! So the digital services we build should encourage this.

I already touched upon the Uber for volunteers, but also connecting people with others who share similar issues and interests is proven to support wellbeing – again making the best use of existing assets and enhancing them through the power of digital.

If that’s not possible then it should be replicated as closely as possible in the virtual world either through online communities and one-on-one support through video conferencing – either from medical professionals and therapists to a good chat with another like-minded individual.

Is it realistic to expect all those who need to access care services to be able to use digital technology?

 

This may seem like an obvious challenge for some groups, particularly the elderly, however Age UK recently reported that 78% of over 65s have proved to be receptive to using technology. Naturally the advancement of this technology and its increasing use in everyday life is assisting this shift.

The prevalence of the smart phone and tablets means that most people now have access to the kind of tools that, maybe unbeknownst to them, they could be using on this journey. And even if they are unable or unwilling to use the assistive technologies out there then we have the ability to allow an authorised user (a relative, health professional or volunteer) to help them.

At Agilisys Care we look to help by designing accessible, intuitive systems that use a mix of intelligent decision-making and algorithms to create a journey that’s tailored to an individual’s needs and goals. We know from experience and what people tell us that it’s more engaging than traditional form filling, which is important as people don’t usually choose to be in the situation they find themselves. The last thing they need is the fear-inducing formality of a council form!

Our tools are used by local authorities to help both those funding their own care, as well as those receiving support from government. And our iterative design methods look to ensure they create a relevant citizen-centric experience.

 

What would be your advice to a local authority seeking to embark on a digital solution for care services?  

Not sure I’d presume to advise the experts in their own areas of expertise! I think typically what we do is ensure we listen to what people want and create tools that enable them to do what comes naturally. This will always generate greater take up and ownership.

Underpinning that there needs to be a clear vision that allows authorities to measure what success is, engagement with stakeholders (co-production and risk sharing), tenacity and optimism!

I think the main thing at this point in time is not trying to do everything at once. We all know the traditional care model isn’t sustainable and so while the development of new models is inevitable and essential, it’s wise to do it in steps.

We’re at a tipping point now where digital will play a significant part in improving the customer experience by allowing people to take control, and supporting local authorities to manage demand and rethink the way they deliver services. The first building block is to provide the right information in the right way to enable people to help themselves.

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