Technology has become a way of life in every area of work, augmenting everything around us to be faster and more efficient. Technology and care may be fast friends now, but it was not so long ago that scepticism abounded. Research by the IPC from two years ago cautioned that; ‘adapting to digital platforms has been challenging in a sector where many providers are small family-run businesses, and around a third rely on paper-based records.’
But times have changed. ‘Big Ian’ Donaghy, Social Care Documentarian, shared his 2021 perspective with us:
“Technology’s jumped forward five years in a year [due to] being an absolute necessity [and that] being the mother of invention. So care has really had to embrace all this, and I think it’s done a pretty damn good job. I’ve seen lots of care providers, and individuals doing beautiful things in the community, helping people to help themselves.”
On the Frontline
Change does not always come easy, and it is almost always a process. One that has manifested in many responses to specific issues the pandemic has presented. We spoke to Dr Macaskill, Chief Executive of Scottish Care, about the visible impact technology has already had in care.
“Technology has certainly had a huge benefit in terms of data. Technology has been and will be hugely beneficial in terms of mapping vaccines,” he explains. “I also think there’s a lot of good work being done on remote diagnostic tools, enabling for safer encounters and assessments.”
These technological applications have helped improve the effectiveness of our pandemic responses. However, their worth to the sector can stretch far beyond the current crisis.
‘Beyond the Pandemic’ is a place that can be difficult to imagine at times, but it is coming. As much as technology’s role in care has grown over the past year, it has the potential to expand even further. And, in doing so, expand the compassion and liberty of domiciliary care to a greater range of people in a wider range of ways. Cera Care are at the forefront of utilising technology to increase and improve the services they provide. “Society wants to be cared for at home,” says Katie Furey, Operations Director for Cera, as she talks us through their approach.
“We should be enhancing everyone’s ageing journey to be a positive continuation of their lives to date. We can achieve this by using the best technology and gleaning insights from AI to truly prevent ongoing health concerns that put immense amounts of pressure on the NHS.
“At Cera, we want to build technology that really empowers the frontline to deliver a more effective service and to be supported by data insights so that carers can spend more time caring and less time with administration.”
The power of data is a valuable resource to care providers. It grants co-ordinators the insight to respond effectively and efficiently to the needs of the carers and services users. Especially when developing measures like preventative care. The application of data can help improve the information available to carers, while new technology can improve both treatment options and administrative processes.
Tracking the Trends
Here at CarePlanner we witnessed a significant upswing in the usage of the digital communications tools provided by our platform in 2020. In the pursuit of applicable data, we took a deeper look at the usage of our diary entry system, which provides a kind of digital logbook for recording incidents, compliments, complaints or significant changes to a service user’s care arrangements.
In 2018, our customers were producing an average of just 2000 diary entries per year each. By 2019, this average had jumped to over 3,800 per year. And by the end of 2020, that number had grown again to over 6,000 per year.
We found a similar trend with our mobile app notes usage. In 2018, customers were producing only around 600 of these each year. By 2019, this average had almost trebled to over 1,700 per year. And by 2020 this had almost doubled again to 3,300 per year.¹
These increases reflect the findings of other organisations research into technology usage during the pandemic. “One of the other good things is that people had to think differently about digital platforms as a communication system,” says David Smallacombe, Chief Executive Officer, Care and Support West.
“Care has, in particular, had to think differently about digital platforms,” Smallacombe says. “How to communicate between themselves, GP practices, [and] acute settings. I think that’s going to be viewed as another plus.”
Disruption is a Subtle Form of Creation
We have seen a myriad of responses to the challenges of the pandemic in social care. From companies developing unique apps like C19 Control and National Care Force to the CWC’s ‘Cuppa for Care’ campaign. The mere survival of social care over the past 18 months has been a testament to the sector’s ability to change and adapt.
“If you think about it, the biggest changes of the last 10 years in the way we do things has come from digital transformation hasn’t it?” asks Neil Crowther, co-convener, of #socialcarefuture. “Things like Uber and Deliveroo and Airbnb – they’ve not waited for the leadership from governments to kind of happen. They’ve disrupted and then government has caught up. I think we need that sort of energy.”
Do Care Workers Dream of Electric Greets?
Social care is clearly ready to welcome digital transformation based on its track record during the pandemic. However, it’s fair to assume that care providers will be unwilling to let any innovations interfere with the core purpose of care – choice. This means we must treat any technological transformations applied to care sensitively and ethically.
“I think that growing appetite [for tech], presents a real opportunity, and it’s important to harness it,” says Policy & Research Manager “But it absolutely must be done with an ethical approach to choice. To ensure it’s enhancing rather than replacing. That is hugely important.”
Care is already a way of life for its millions of recipients and its thousands of providers. Introducing any kind of change to a way of life, especially a big one, requires patience and a degree of trial-and-error. The pandemic has given us neither, instead forcing the sector to react quickly in order to continue supporting service users. Let’s hope that the rest of 2021 will give us the chance to catch our breath, consider which technological changes have benefitted us, and which were only adopted out of brute necessity. Technological advancements are inevitable in the social care sector, provided they continue to honour the commitment to care quality first and foremost.
1. All data taken from companies who used CarePlanner from 2018 to present.