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Can smart technology really transform adult social care?

‘Greater choice, control and independence.’
These five words are the recurring theme from the Government’s recently launched Adult Social Care Reform White Paper, boldly titled ‘People at the Heart of Care’.

The Government has set out grand ambitions in its Policy Paper.
“We want people who draw on care and support to lead a fulfilling life, playing a full role in society. We want to acknowledge the important role of families and friends in caring for one another, while also enabling those who provide unpaid care to a friend or loved one to be supported to achieve their own life goals. We want the adult social care workforce to feel recognised and to have opportunities to develop their careers.”

Many of the people working in adult social care would position this vision more on the distant horizon than the foreseeable future, such is the realty of their day-to-day challenges.

Many do not feel at ‘the heart of care’ – more ‘in the eye of the storm’.
The Pandemic has placed an intolerable strain on a workforce that already felt underpaid, overworked, and undervalued.

Talk to any SME home care business manager or owner, and you will hear the same recurring themes: we’re trying to balance modest profits with the lack of available care staff (exasperated by Brexit), and the demographics of an increasingly aging population.

Everyone from the top down knows that the system needs radical change, the question is how?

In its quest to put people first, the Government has identified new and disruptive technology-enabled care (TEC) as a cornerstone for reform and improvement:
“Committing at least £150 million of additional funding to drive greater adoption of technology and achieve widespread digitisation across social care. Digital tools and technology can support independent living and improve the quality of care.”
(Executive Summary)

Earlier this year Secure UK Ltd commissioned some research into the state of play of technology in the commercial home care sector.

We surveyed company managers and owners to better understand where technology was up to, and their ambitions for TEC in the future.

What we learned is now available in a free market intelligence report Home Care Business and Innovation, but if I was to summarise, I’d pick out the following – TEC has a long way to go.

Yes, most home care businesses have invested in some sort of digital solution, but these have mostly been focused on care efficiency and management – things like care scheduling products and management software and apps.

The real game-changing TEC will be smart solutions that monitor and interact with older people at home, gathering data, and using artificial intelligence to identify issues and channel the right support to the people who need it.

Machines can only transform lives once we give them the capability to gather and process information.


So, as part of the survey we asked ‘What are the home care customer benefits of 24/7 remote home monitoring?’ and by some margin, two main benefits were highlighted:

  • Facilitates the ability to live independently at home for longer
  • Increased feeling of safety/peace of mindThe survey also revealed that only 10% of domiciliary care providers had so far deployed 24/7 home monitoring.

The latest smart TEC solutions are now addressing some of the long-term frailties that have dogged the home care industry for decades, including staffing shortages, low profit margins and inconsistent standards in care and customer service.
But it’s not going to be the ‘safe’ solutions that deliver real and lasting change, but TEC that will challenge and change how we interact with customers and use precious staff. So on that basis, a good chunk of the £150m designated for digital investment must be spent on genuine smart solutions as opposed to quick fixes.

Download the Home Care & Innovation - market intelligence report 2021

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Paul Botsford is the Head of Assisted Living Technology & Services at Secure, the developer of the Beanbag Care platform.
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