What are the main issues facing the adult social care industry and those who use its services? How can technology help them overcome these challenges? The King’s Fund sponsored an Amazon Web Services-sponsored roundtable that addressed this broad topic.
Participants included people from the social care sector, as well as representatives of local authorities, integrated systems, technology providers, and social care providers. The roundtable was conducted under Chatham House Rules: We report on the comments but don’t identify the people who made them.
There was agreement amongst the group about the challenges faced by adult social services and the type of social care system they wanted to see.
Many examples were given of how technology was used effectively to enhance quality, ensure greater choice and control, and generate efficiencies. These examples showed the potential of technology to benefit service providers, caregivers, staff, and organizations. We heard about electronic notifications of patients ready to be discharged from the hospital, digital records of social care, remote monitoring, fall prevention, and consumer-facing technologies, such as virtual assistance technology.
Discussions were held about how technology could improve social care. It was notable that the majority of the discussion centered around the future potential of technology rather than its immediate use.
What needs to be changed to make things move more quickly? Our discussions revealed four major challenges: systems, infrastructure and resources, skills and culture, and coproduction.
In order to better utilize technology, the key point made was that a preventative and anticipatory model of care is needed.
It’s a mistake to think of this as a technology acquisition when it is actually an exercise in creating the right service model.
Participants felt that system-wide budgeting was necessary to allow for investment in a preventative model that encourages person-centered care.
Sometimes, benefits can be found in other parts of the system, especially when using tech-enabled care solutions.
Resources and Infrastructure
Conversations focused on funding in relation to infrastructure and resources, particularly longer-term funding for encouraging the uptake of tools that show benefits.
We must move away from the mentality that piloting is best and instead adopt a mindset of prototyping before scaling.
The improvement of strategic management skills was also highlighted.
We have a lot of data but lack the insight and foresight to make the best use of it.
Local authorities find it difficult to invest in innovation when working with partners. Local authorities are not very trusting in the technology sector, and they struggle to support capital and change management investments.
Others have commented on the importance of ensuring that the digital infrastructure is on an equal basis across the country.
Many areas of the country are still dark and do not have basic or strong Wwi-fiF.
Culture and skills
Participants thought that culture and skills were a barrier to development.
Our staff and our service teams face many challenges. One of the biggest is improving workforce skills. There’s resistance.
We struggle as a sector to create the right culture and conditions for innovation and change.
Others disagreed. They argued that the uptake of digital care records was not related to culture but rather to the fee rates paid to providers.
There was a recognition that some of the problems with workers could be rooted in other deeper-seated issues.
How can we integrate digital more when we have a workforce that is not yet recognized for its skills outside of digital?
The use of digital technology was also influenced by the concerns and expectations of the people who are using services.
Now, we have people coming into the system that have grown up with technology. They’re tech-savvy, and their parents are too. So they expect that technology will be available.
The majority of people are excited about technology, but when it is amplified on a system-wide level, there are genuine concerns… who controls the data?
Coproduction was a key concern. People expressing this expressed their desire to use services.
I would like to see coproduction at all stages, starting with planning, commissioning, and ending with a support plan. The personal should be the focus so that you can live a happy life full of choice and control.
There was a recognition that coproduction is patchy at the moment.
Local authorities try to work in a co-produced manner with those receiving support. But there is still a lot of work to do in this area.
The providers were also concerned about the importance of jointly developing solutions.
Sometimes, when it comes to digital social records, some providers think that they have been forced into the system rather than working together.
Also, to the staff.
It is important that technology supports care workers and not punishes them. This technology was developed in collaboration with social workers as well as people who rely on their services.
This suggests that social care digital technologies are still in their infancy. Still, they have great potential for all those who use them, including carers, employees, organizations, and the wider health and care system, if these technologies are developed in partnership. Adequate funding for digital includes not only basic infrastructure, such as wi-fi, to implement the technology but also strategic capabilities to capture and utilize data insights. Digitally enabled social care can transform the care of the individual if it is combined with adequate system funding.