The role of technology in adult social care
In a recent Capita survey with members of the County Councils Network (CCN), 94% of respondents felt that adult social care was the biggest financial pressure facing their council, and more than half felt that funding pressures they face are ‘severe’.
Through our work across the sector we understand that a range of technological innovations can ensure quality services whilst meeting the financial challenges of the coming years.
Digital technology has the potential to underpin the way service users engage with service providers. Services need to be redesigned around a single view of the user so that all the moving parts work towards a common set of goals; reducing the need for care, changing the care mix and optimising operations, including the supply chain.
Councils could look at a better use of resources and innovative community care services. By combining enabling technology with innovative ‘volunteer-centric’ ways for people to donate their time the cost of community care services can be reduced. Building connected networks – which are therefore resilient communities – will reduce the demand on public services significantly.
In terms of the physical environment, the use of sensors, embedded computers and robotic process automation will be the transformational technologies because of the new data networks and real time insight they provide in to people, places and things.
Intelligence in computers is advancing to the point where they can mimic the steps of a rules-based, non-subjective process. Computer programmes could potentially work on millions of data points collected through intelligent sensors, multiple case data and demographic analysis, or even “big data” collected from mobile phone companies to identify social care needs. This could allow personalised and targeted proactive interventions, which can then be matched to an individual’s preferred engagement approach to help them make changes to their everyday behaviour.
In addition, case load management could be simplified by running cases through a process to perform checks that filter out the simple cases, leaving staff to focus on the more complex work. Automation is also ideal for managing multiple sources of data input – from a citizen’s GP, his social worker and his family, for example.
The added value from the deployment of this technology is the additional data it produces. ‘Real time’ data can be useful for adjusting the care provision to adults without waiting for six-monthly case reviews. Even more interestingly, the aggregated dataset across a geography or community offers the opportunity, via the use of powerful analytical tools, to make detailed and accurate predictions in relation to future care needs. This would give the sector a new set of tools with which to commission and deliver services with maximum impact and much more certainty over cost.
As councils engage with an extended period of reduced means, the care sector would benefit from the key opportunities provided by the digital revolution.
First published in the MJ September 2015