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Stepping out of the shadows: Social care prepares for a digital future

Steve Carefull, Adult Social Care Expert, and David Rees, Head of Local Government Services at PA Consulting, are quoted extensively in a Barclays report on how technology will transform the social care sector. PA’s Argenti care technology partnership with Hampshire Council is also mentioned.

Highlights from the report include:

Traditionally, healthcare has lagged behind many other sectors in terms of its approach to digitisation, and even on the spectrum of healthcare provision, the adoption of technology in social care has been minimal. However, with the sector facing substantial challenges, it’s an approach that must change if social care is to have a viable and vibrant future.

David comments: “The way social care is funded is an ongoing debate, but with local authorities now feeling the impact of the pandemic, that pressure will increase.”

It isn’t just the financial effects of the pandemic that could see the sector fast approaching a tipping point where radical transformation is required to ensure viability. Wider funding issues and the human resource challenges are other factors that could benefit from the take up of technology.

David continues: “It’s a difficult sector to recruit into. We’re seeing a 6,000-person shortfall in the care economy in just one county. Retention is also difficult, partly because of competition but also because it’s a physically demanding job. A lot of musculoskeletal injuries could be prevented or reduced by greater use of technology.”

Early adopters of technology offer opportunities for the UK to embrace existing solutions and global market potential for businesses innovating in this space, possibly encouraging greater commercialisation of innovation in the UK.

Steve comments: “We’re trialling the use of collaborative robots or ‘cobots’ in care settings. These are wearable devices that assist care workers when lifting or moving a person. However, we’ve had to go to Japan to find a manufacturer because there are currently no manufacturers of suitable devices in the UK.”

Sharing learning isn’t one-sided. The UK was the first to trial Amazon Echo with Alexa in a care setting, leading to similar services in the US and Nordic countries. David continues to say:

“Harnessing technology that was designed to delight a customer and making it work to provide users with greater independence won our Amazon Alexa trial an innovation award. Users can ask Alexa to switch on appliances or lights, call for assistance, or just play their music of choice. It supports independence. Since its launch, 72% of users have said that it’s improved their life.”

Steve comments:

“Building trust in technology requires everybody to behave in a transparent way. The younger generation tends to be more relaxed about sharing their data; they understand the quid pro quo, however, the older generation is latching on too.

"When we ran the Amazon Alexa pilot for older people with care needs, some did express concerns about data privacy, but the majority recognised that if they wanted Alexa to play music and give them the local news and weather at no cost, there was a trade-off required in terms of their data being held by Amazon. We were careful to ensure they understood that and were still comfortable to proceed.”

When discussing shifting expectations, potentially, this is an area of technology adoption where social care can steal a march on primary care. David comments:

“Clients sometimes say they want a ‘technology first’ approach. We prefer an ‘outcomes first’ approach that focuses on service user needs, considering the individual and their concerns. We can then understand what technology could do for a user and in what context.”

Steve concludes:

“Historically, decision-makers in social care have been more willing to make a managed leap of faith if they can see that in principle an idea is worth having a proper go at. On the other hand, clinicians apply a higher threshold of evidence before they’ll commit to changing something, which can be a challenge for truly novel ideas.”  

Download the full report

Argenti. Putting digital technology at the heart of social care and saving millions

Find out more

Contact the adult social care team


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