Can analytics help fight social isolation?
Talking data and analytics in healthcare: An interview with Adrian Woolmore, Capita Transformation.
As health market lead of Capita Transformation, Adrian and his team are working to reduce social isolation in the UK. We spoke to him about the potential to use predictive analytics to help tackle the issue.
Why has social isolation become an issue for local authorities?
Adrian Woolmore: Social isolation refers to a lack of contact with family or friends, community involvement, or access to services. We’ve found that loneliness and social isolation often go hand in hand and can have different causes and may require different solutions.
It’s quite a subjective concept and people can become socially isolated at any stage of life. While working with our clients, the team has discovered that it’s inherently difficult to find and support the people affected and that it’s a quite a big problem amongst the elderly.
How could we use data for prevention?
AW: We’ve created an index which calculates the likelihood of someone becoming isolated. It combines individual and household level statistics such as age, gender, household composition and household income with weightings derived from national research. People with a higher rating on the index are more likely to be socially isolated
The locations of everyone who scores highly are recorded, so we can identify areas with higher densities of older adults more likely to be socially isolated. When the index finds social isolation ‘hotspots’, we can locate the existing services, local community assets and third sector organisations that are closest to the people at risk. From there, we can judge whether the available local services are able address the isolation issue.
By pinpointing such small areas, local solutions implemented by local organisations can address local challenges. For example; in areas with an abundance of parks and gardens, they can encourage people to join walking or gardening groups. The social isolation tool shows where, for example, a community programme could be effective, or, because the index also identifies individuals at greater risk of becoming socially isolated, it could be used to flag up any new or current social care customers who are at high risk. We can then provide more support to help at risk people.
How can local authorities use this tool?
AW: The social isolation index provides health or social care practitioners with insight that helps them provide support for people that are typically difficult to identify, who are at high risk of spiralling into poor health and require intensive intervention from health services. When we pinpoint people at greatest risk, local authorities can intervene early and reduce demand for more costly services.