Can technology rescue the precarious state of adult social care?

A new report has revealed that, while the majority of adult social care is good, future quality is precarious as the system struggles with complex new types of demand, access and cost.

This year’s State of Care report – the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) annual assessment of the quality of health and social care in England – contains much that is encouraging. As at 31 July 2017, 78% of adult social care services were rated good (71% were rated good at 31 July 2016).

However, the changing nature of demand – increasingly, numbers of older people who are physically frail, many with dementia, more people with long term complex conditions – is placing unprecedented pressure on the system; estimates show that one in eight older people are not receiving the help they need.

Sir David Behan, Chief Executive of CQC, said: “The future of the social care system is one of the greatest unresolved public policy issues of our time – a long term sustainable solution is urgently required. The anticipated green paper on adult social care will provide the opportunity for Parliament, the public and professionals to consider how we can collectively develop an appropriately funded social care system that can meet people’s needs, now and in the future.

“If services are to deliver consistently for people, there must be better coordination of care to create a sustainable and effective health and care system. Staff and leaders can’t work any harder; the answer must be to work more collaboratively, not just between sectors but between agencies and professionals, supported and incentivised by the national health and care organisations.”

Peter Wyman, Chair of CQC, continued: “We often see personalised care at its best where there is strong leadership and a positive culture, and we have pointed to where a shared vision and outward looking approach have been central to improvement – and to where providers have reached out to local communities and partners, involving patient and the public in shaping services, and collaborating with local groups.

 

Is technology the problem solver?

Interestingly, this latest report has increased calls for the use of technology in delivering adult social care that’s cost-effective and successful. Wyman added: “We have seen examples of services working together – often harnessing new innovations and technology, including collaborating to share data – to transform care around people’s needs, with positive results on outcomes, access and people’s experience.

“CQC will encourage the move towards coordinated care by increasingly reporting not just on the quality of care of individual providers but on the quality of care across areas and coordination between these areas. This must be future direction for creating a more sustainable and effective health and care system for the third decade of the 21st century.”

The National Care Forum (NCF) is also advocating the use of technology. NCF Executive Director, Vic Rayner said: “The NCF notes that the emphasis within the report on innovation as a key contributor to outstanding services. The ability to innovate to sustain and enhance quality under extraordinary resource pressure has characterised much of the not for profit care sector. NCF particularly believes that there are significant gains to be made through the adoption of new technologies to enhance quality care.”

 

Successful solutions

Ian ward, Head of Innovation at Agilisys Care commented: “It is clear is that the traditional model of state provided care is no longer sustainable and that new models of care are both inevitable and essential.

“In our experience at Agilisys working with local authorities, we too see that what people want from social care is changing. Many are seeking less fragmented, more personal provision with convenient digital access to services.  In response to these emerging requirements, innovative ways to transform care services are needed.

“We’re greatly encouraged to hear that CQC and NCF are advocating this approach and endorsing the creation of a focused strategy around local collaboration, driven by innovation and new technologies, as part of a long term sustainable solution.”

Ian states that the above is consistent with the ongoing feedback we receive from all local authorities and chimes with conversations that took place at the recent NCASC event. Repeated themes were:

  • Firstly, agree on your strategy and then focus on where digital can help that strategy. Set exam questions. Share case studies.
  • New technologies can help citizens and communities to be more self-supporting and confident, independent, preventative, resilient…but it must be modelled around their natural behaviours, in digital that means App stores, Google, Facebook not necessarily Council websites
  • New technologies can help providers and professionals with ‘on-strategy’ and statutory decision making – with Integrated data enabling care, health (& housing, education, police etc.) multi-agency working, single view of holistic citizen in place (care, health, housing, family/friends, school, debt) …enable earlier intervention based on patterns of decline
  • Don’t wait! We can’t implement the whole strategic shift in six months but we can pilot small parts of the bigger picture. Know what you want to achieve, measure it and improve it…perhaps funded by Social Impact Bonds, to prove that an intervention works before major roll out

We’ve seen plenty of examples up and down the country where local authorities are seizing the opportunity:

  • IoT telecare that connects people and reduces need for Residential Care
  • Online dating for people with Asperger syndrome, autism and learning disabilities
  • Financial Assessments that bring transparency and trust around eligibility

Historically challenging times have usually led to great Innovation and it seems that there’s now a belief that innovative thinking and new technologies can help support a long term sustainable solution.

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