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How a New Approach to Technology will Revolutionise Social Care

Thursday 22 February 2018

Jane Dalton's picture
By Jane Dalton
The importance of innovative technology in social care shouldn’t be underestimated. In my last blog, I looked at some exciting ways technology is transforming how care is delivered, and how care companies operate. The new technology available to care companies is powerful without doubt, and Essex County Council's decision to ringfence over 40% of its social care precept for digital services signals promising results in the sector.
 
But, without changes to management structures and the organisation as a whole, technology on its own won’t solve a thing, and will merely add complexity to an already overstretched system.
 

What has technology done for social care? 

It goes without saying, the primary focus of care provision should be quality. The Government’s latest budget commitment to boosting social care finance in the short-term is encouraging, but care providers need to be ahead of the curve in driving efficiency and managing resources correctly.
 
Technology has an established history in health and social care, providing solutions that save on administration hours such as planning, scheduling, data and paperless initiatives like timesheets and electronic forms. 
 
Developments in technology have allowed social care staff to support and improve patients’ quality of life, rather than simply meet basic needs. 
 

Why won’t tech on its own solve anything long-term? 

Technology can help to reduce the number of hours providers spend on contact time and admin. But if they’re being contracted and paid by the hour, that’s not necessarily going to be a benefit to them. 
 
Similarly, technology can cut down the amount of human contact needed, but when this kind of interaction with clients is an integral part of the service – it can have a negative effect. 
 
That’s why a balanced technology strategy that also considers and incorporates organisational change is required. 
 
The business case for implementing technology in social care to deliver clear and tangible benefits is clear. But when we consider the true drivers of change and decision-making in the sector, we need to view technology as a component of development, not the solution to it.
 

Moving beyond technology to smarter care

To drive successful change in care, providers and their businesses need to define:
 
  • What training and support will be needed to bring people up to speed with their new tools
  • How care processes and operations can be redesigned in line with new capabilities
  • What needs to be done to ensure clients and patients are comfortable with changes in how care is delivered
  • How provider time should be reallocated in line with those new processes
  • Whether the core IT they have can truly support new tools and devices
  • What else will have to change in the short term to accommodate an increased tech spend
  • What the returns will be on a new tech investment, and how that will impact long-term budgeting

With those questions answered, care companies can start looking beyond the technology itself, and really understand the context they need to create for change.

Take something like big data for example. Stronger monitoring of patient health and conditions could fundamentally transform every part of the care process for the better. But, to actually get there, you need to define exactly how you’re going to rebuild processes around that new capability – and ensure that everyone’s on board with the proposed changes.
 

What can you do? 

Technology is often seen as the solution, but it’s actually cultural change programmes that hold the key to development. Early engagement from key stakeholders in this process enables the process to be optimised from the offset. Often, people on the front line are consulted after the change has happened, leading to frustration from both sides. 
 
Helping leaders transform and enabling people to embrace technology as a help to their everyday work, not a hindrance, is the most effective strategy to adopt going forward. Digital transformation and process change should be owned by business leaders and those that have the power to drive this change forward effectively.
 

Our latest e-book "Embracing The Digital Future of Care"  explores how the care industry can maximise the opportunities in technology and new digital services to deliver value.

 

Technology can transform the way care is delivered. But to make transformation happen, new tools and devices must be supported by the right cultural and process change.

How a New Approach to Technology will Revolutionise Social Care

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