In a four-part article, QCS content operations manager, Leah Cooke asked leaders in the social care sector for their views on how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect social care.
Kicking things off is Daniel Casson, digital transformation advisor at Care England, who explains how a greater use of technology has had a positive impact on the workforce and those receiving care.
Grounds for optimism in the pandemic have been few and far between. But one shaft of sunlight has been the intelligent use of technology. In the three national lockdowns, it has been a unifying force for good, for example, in the way that it has helped people living in care homes to stay in contact with their families.
As we begin to enter a post-pandemic world, the social care sector, which up until now has been slower than many sectors in embracing technology, must decide how it can best utilise technology to serve the needs of the millions of people who require care. For anybody struggling to define the role of technology, there are three key points to consider.
The first is that technology must create value for both the carer and the service user. Take clinical remote monitoring technology, for instance: it enables carers to formulate more targeted care plans and be more efficient and responsive.
The second point is that technological innovation must also have value for the organisation. Before the COVID-19 crisis, very few care settings had the means to measure efficiency. Now, however, electronic care plans are helping registered managers and their teams to make extraordinary efficiency gains. Many have discovered that by moving care plans online, they can save at least half an hour for each person per shift, and over the course of a year, that equates to approximately 30 shifts.
But, care providers must be aware that technology can only be implemented successfully if it is seen in the bigger picture of focusing care around the person. It should be deployed not purely to drive efficiency: ultimately, it must contribute towards ensuring that the person being supported can enjoy a better quality of life. So, the question care providers should always ask is, ‘how is the service going to use the time saved to provide even better care?’
Thirdly, as we begin to embrace Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), it is important that technology helps to break down the barriers between health and social care. If technology promotes greater joint working in health and care, it then becomes possible to measure the quality of the care and cost-effectiveness holistically. Let’s take the example of acoustic monitoring (i.e. monitoring by the sounds a person makes or are detected in their vicinity). If a care manager wants to employ acoustic monitoring software in an effort to minimise unforeseen incidents, it is relatively easy to present a business case that the technology would help reduce the number of falls significantly. This would be of obvious benefit to the person, would save the provider time and staff resources, and also benefit the health system due to a reduction in incidents related to falls. So the only way to really measure the value of employing acoustic monitoring is to look at the benefits holistically across health and social care.
Most of all, this ability to realise the benefits of technology across health and social care would help care providers to make a powerful case for NHS funding because the acute health sector would benefit from the investment. If resources now targeted solely at the health sector were to be available to fund improvements in the care infrastructure, that would be a game-changing moment for the care sector.