According to Age UK, 97% of the UK population would like to receive care in their own home. With this in mind, Helen Dempster explains why the implementation of effective and intelligent technology across the entire social care ecosystem will be key to enabling more people to stay in their homes for longer with a better quality of care
The ageing population is the single and most significant driver for changing health and care needs in our society, according to Age UK’s 2017 report Health and Care of Older People in England 2017. While the government has pledged an additional £20 billion for the health service, in an era of phenomenal technology innovation, it is essential to question how best that investment should be spent.
Rapid technology development is opening up new ways to effectively and efficiently both improve the quality of care and maximise the value of the NHS and social care budget. From apps that minimise the admin overload for carers to the role of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in monitoring individuals and predicting the need for early intervention, we are now at a turning point, a time when technology truly offers the chance to transform the way in which care is delivered.
Additional funding is excellent, and needed; but as Helen Dempster, Chief Visionary Officer, Karantis360 explains, it is the effective and intelligent use of this technology across the entire social care ecosystem including carer, patient, family, social and medical services, that will be key to enabling more people to stay in their homes for longer with a better quality of both life and care.
The challenge associated with supporting and funding the care for an ageing population continues to escalate. According to Age UK, the numbers of people aged 85+ in England increased by almost a third over the last decade and will more than double over the next two decades. And these people need care and support: by their late 80s, more than one in three people has difficulties undertaking five or more tasks of daily living unaided and between a quarter and a half of the 85+ age group are frail.
With current care services under extraordinary strain, it is estimated that over nine million people are caring for loved ones, many with increasingly complex needs – and this number will continue to increase, creating huge financial and mental stress for often geographical distant family members.
Of course, most people don’t want to go into a care home: according to Age UK, 97% of the population would like to receive care in their own home. But the funding gap in social care – predicted by the Local Government Association to reach £3.5 billion by 2025 – is creating a devastating knock on effect on the NHS, with thousands of elderly patients stuck in hospital when they are well enough to go home because there is nobody to look after them. With the cost of delayed discharges now at almost £290 million per year, the chief executive of the health service, Simon Stevens, said recently that the equivalent of 36 hospitals were out of action because of a lack of social care.
Technology Led Transformation
While the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said: “Tech transformation is coming,” to the NHS, what does that mean in practice? This is not just a case of doing the same things faster. Given the scale of the problem, technology must be leveraged to fundamentally reconsider the way the entire social care ecosystem operates.
How can technology be used to overcome barriers in communication between agencies, carers and family members? Or to ensure the most up to date information is available in real-time to deliver a more personal care package? What is the best way to keep people at home, without compromising their health or risking expensive hospital admissions?
One of the most fundamental roles that technology must play in the future is to enable carers to undertake their primary function: care. This means minimising the admin burden and releasing carers to spend more time with patients. This stretched resource is under huge pressure to meet escalating care needs, and yet compelled to spend upwards of 20 minutes in a 30 minute patient visit filling in manual forms. In addition to the sheer waste of essential, one to one patient time, this paper-based information is simply not stored in a way that enables easy sharing with other stakeholders, from other carers to health providers and family members.
Technology has a huge role to play in improving the quality and personal aspect of care – such as the adoption of easy-to-use apps proven to reduce the administrative time spent by up to 75%. Combining a simple user interface with voice recognition, such an app not only minimises the admin burden but also makes it easy for carers to record more personal patient information – such as patient mood, important dates including birthdays or the anniversary of a spouse’s death – which can then support a far more personal care experience.
In addition, this technology ensures the carer’s report is automatically shared not only with the local authorities and/or care agency but with the individual’s family members, addressing one of the huge causes of stress for those tasked with overseeing the care of a loved one, stress that often leads to time off work or ill health.
In this way the traditional challenges of information sharing between agencies can be overcome and ensure the most up to date medical and personal facts are always available to those who need them.
Used in tandem with innovative solutions such as IoT based sensors, and the care ecosystem can be extended to delivery care 24×7. AI-based tools can track habitual behaviour and spot changes in real time, allowing intervention when it is most needed – further alleviating the pressure on carers and families alike.
This real-time information provides a platform for the end to end digitisation of healthcare, co-ordinating the ecosystem of local authorities, healthcare providers, NHS Trusts, GPs, registered nurses and care homes. With accurate, real-time information, the social care model can not only become more transparent, including the family members, but also move from reactive to proactive.
And that means organisations have a chance to rethink the way care is delivered, better matching care to specific patient needs. Would a patient be better served by shorter daily sessions plus continuous monitoring? Or would an emergency response service be more appropriate – leveraging alerts passed out to a care agency or managed service that is monitoring IoT dashboards to send emergency response doctors? With a 24×7 system that monitors and picks up abnormal behaviour, the care ecosystem has a chance to operate in a very different, proactive and personal manner.
From bed blocking to the pressure on carers and the extended family, it’s time to tackle the social care ecosystem in its entirety. Technology is now advanced, user friendly and cost effective enough to make a real difference. People want to stay in their own home and it is widely believed they are healthier and happier in that familiar environment. Technology provides a platform for carers to have the information to support a more personal care experience – and a minimised admin requirement; while family members have the relief of immediate information on the loved one’s current state of health and mind.
And the technology makes financial sense: for local authorities, enabling just a handful of individuals to remain safely and happily at home, rather than in a care facility, justifies the investment in new technology; while for the NHS, the ability to address bed blocking will unleash vast resources. What is truly exciting is that this is just the start; from IoT to AI we now have the chance to better understand patient activity, to intervene early, even predict potential problems, to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and allow more patients to stay safely at home for longer.
Chief Visionary Officer