Paul Botsford is the Head of Assisted Living Technology & Services at Secure, the developers of Beanbag Care, a new range of independent living solutions.
Here, he shares what he has learned about how care providers and local authorities are using technology to innovate during the COVID-19 pandemic and how the crisis has advanced the sector’s understanding of how to support and monitor vulnerable people remotely.
A big part of 2020 to date has been looking at my diary each week and thinking: ‘I would have been going to x tomorrow’, but due to the pandemic, invariably, I’m going no further than my home office.
Usually each year Secure sponsors a number of roadshow style seminars called Innovation in Independent Living, often hosted by the likes of local authorities and social landlords.
Unsurprisingly, we took the decision to move these events online, focusing on the many ways that care providers have innovated in the face of the coronavirus.
I saw this as a great opportunity to discover if and how the crisis was potentially freeing carers to show new levels of ingenuity, allowing them to be bold and try new things.
Sometimes the reality of facing up to an unprecedented challenge can free minds from a fear of failure and ask ‘but what if it works?’
By late June, we realised that the crisis had calmed sufficiently to allow these same people the opportunity to share their experience and knowledge, and our first ‘Innovation in Independent Living’ webinars were born.
Over three fascinating webinars, leaders from local authorities, care providers and social housing shared the challenges they’ve faced and how they’ve innovated to maintain care and well-being.
I’d like to thank everybody who logged-on, shared and participated, and here’s a brief summary of some of the many things I learnt.
- Things won’t go back to normal
Many of the new ways of working will remain because they improve the quality of care and are more cost effective. This will be a win-win for those who deliver and receive care. We are also now in a position whereby more service users have become increasingly tech-savvy, and C&C Housing Trust’s extensive distribution and take-up of tablets demonstrated that older people aren’t necessarily technophobes, by nature they just need the right support. Getting people to use that one piece of hardware unlocks the door to so many possibilities, from basic video calling to online classes.
- New technologies have been vital in communicating with the vulnerable
Different organisations have trialled a variety of approaches to keep in touch with those in isolation. Coastline Housing used video calls for repairs and maintenance visits and leant heavily on its online customer portal, C&C Housing Trust (as discussed) handed out more free tablets to allow video interaction, and Hampshire County Council further used its artificial intelligence capability to make calls.
- The crisis has accelerated the search for alternatives to traditional pendant and fall alarms
Reacting to a fall is too late for the victim (and the faller’s family and carers), so better to prevent injury by proactively identifying when a fall may occur. Cardiff Council (through its ARMED project), has incorporated strength testing and behaviour monitoring, while Secure is advancing non-wearable and non-intrusive rapid fall detection technology. Both approaches have the potential to save the NHS and social care providers a lot of time and resources – whist improving quality of life for those at home.
- No-one has all the answers – but we all need to keep asking questions
As highlighted in the previous point, innovators and technology suppliers are all coming at the home care challenge from slightly different angles, based on differing knowledge and expertise – and that’s a positive thing. Secure’s strength is our heritage in precision measurement and controls, and safe cloud based communications with over six million smart devices installed in UK homes. This galvanises how we innovate as a business with a focus on connectivity and cost efficiency.
- This crisis will allow people to live in their own homes for longer
I know this is a bold statement, but I see this is an inevitable outcome of this crisis. Even in the not too distant future, when the most vulnerable are able to leave the isolation of their homes in full confidence, our advanced understanding and ability to support and monitor people remotely will have positive implications far beyond the coronavirus.
If you’d like to watch any of the three webinars, they are recorded and available online. Just click on the following links.
Innovation in Independent Living Wales (7th July)
Innovation in Independent Living (9th July)
Smart Social Housing (10th July)