How can commissioners turn care technology ambitions into action?

Robert Turnbull

By Robert Turnbull

Care technology solutions enable millions of people across the UK to live independently and safely in their communities and homes – but adoption across local authorities has been slow, and results varied. As our new research shows, care technology can help councils ensure people have access to the right information, advice, and support to stay safe and well – all while meeting budgetary, integration, workforce, and digital migration challenges.

Currently, one in six people in the UK live with major illnesses. By 2040, this figure is predicted to rise to one in five. Beset by the growing demand and complexity of social care requirements, a fifth of UK councils face potential bankruptcy. This has led to a focus on activities that manage demand and reduce costs – including care technology.

From traditional telecare alarms to the Internet of Things devices, care technology enables people to stay connected to others, live well and safely in and around their home, and to access and draw on proactive support to maintain their wellbeing, health, and care.

Our latest research, in collaboration with TEC Services Association (TSA), shows that commissioners – including councils and central government – recognise the potential of care technology, and are keen to expand its use. The report draws on the findings of a new survey of adult social care leaders across 40 UK councils, supplemented by datasets from TSA and PA. This first Technology enabled care: State of the sector 2024 report explores how councils can translate their care technology ambitions into accelerated action to deliver great outcomes for people of all ages in the place they call home.

Tapping into care technology

The digital migration of traditional analogue landline networks to internet-based voice communication infrastructure has catalysed a new category of care technology solutions that draw on insight from data to support preventative, proactive care. Encouraged by the influx of digital solutions and a wider awareness of care technology applications post-COVID-19, adult social care leaders see care technology as a driver for better social health care outcomes and lower costs of care. All survey respondents say care technology is a vital part of their social care offer, and almost all (97 percent) agree care technology is important in responding to increasing demand and complexity. The same percentage plan to increase care technology use in the next 12 months. This heralds an expanding role for care technology to open up touchpoints with a range of beneficiaries beyond ageing populations, including unpaid carers and those with learning disabilities.

However, commissioning care technology is difficult due to the rapid pace of development, budget concerns, and an opaque opportunity landscape. In areas where care technology has flourished, such as at Hampshire County Council, collaboration helps to curb challenges. Partnering with the care technology sector has been shown to be a pathway to successful growth and development, allowing more people to benefit. And collaboration between health and social care – as facilitated by integrated care systems (ICSs) in England – can unlock whole-system benefits.

Yet if councils are to deliver on their ambitions for care technology in the next 12 months, they will need to prioritise sustainable transformational change with care technology embedded – with a focus on outcomes, not technology. There are three key steps to achieve this:

Define outcomes and the case for investment

Councils in England spend between £170 million and £200 million on care technology services – equal to 0.8 to 1.1 percent of adult social care budgets. Based on our analysis, the potential financial benefit delivered by care technology over five years represents a 60 percent return on investment, suggesting that greater investment will aid budget aches. This has been recognised by the expansion of central government funding programmes, such as the Better Care Fund and Disabled Facilities Grant, to accelerate care technology investment. Respondents expect funding from these areas to increase.

Despite this, eight in ten adult social care leaders say constructing a credible financial case for investment is the primary obstacle to achieving their care technology goals in the next year, while almost all (95 percent) say measuring the financial benefit of care technology and the positive impact on people will help to enable success. The starting point in developing a compelling case for investment is to clearly define outcomes and how to reach them. This provides a north star that guides and optimises the design and delivery of care technology pathways and services.

Identify the enablers of success

Our research shows that the key challenges for care technology adoption are financial pressures, lack of integration, limited workforce awareness, and the complexity of digital migration. From these challenges, councils can chart a path to success. Alongside a strong investment rationale, this includes an integrated approach across health and social care, raising awareness of care technology, and understanding the impact of digital migration on costs and operations. Ironically, while digital migration represents an enabler for care technology, the complexity of digital migration draws attention, time, resources, and funding away from care transformation opportunities. To deliver the best quality of life for the most people, commissioners need to see digital opportunities, care technology solutions, and improved population outcomes as one and the same.

Ignite momentum through leadership commitment

An appetite to embrace the opportunities offered by care technology is evident within local government across parts of the UK. Almost all councils plan to keep or increase current use of care technology in the next 12 months.

Councils are making progress against the challenges that have been identified as standing in the way of their care technology ambition for the next 12 months. Our research also highlights that 50 percent of councils are still considering how they respond to the challenges they need to overcome. Senior leadership is vital to drive this change, and there’s evidence that local government is making some progress in this area.

Care technology offers a deeply impactful solution for UK commissioners to address health and social care system pressures while helping more people live fulfilling, independent, healthy lives. The opportunity is huge, and our research identifies clear routes to success.

About the authors

Robert Turnbull
Robert Turnbull PA care technology expert

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