Keeping care at home: technology’s role in digitally transforming adult social care
Digital transformation is now a high priority within the UK health and care sector as it seeks to use innovative technology to achieve better outcomes through greater efficiency.
Innovative technology has the potential to be the cornerstone of a long-term and sustainable future for our social care sector which is currently under huge pressure. An industry report from ADASS (Association of Directors of Adult Social Services) showed that more than a shocking 1.5 million hours of commissioned home care could not be provided between August and October 2021, revealing the scale of the issue.
This in addition to challenges such as budget cuts and an aging society. By 2030, one in five people in the UK will be aged 65 or over, creating greater strain on NHS services, which are also set to face impending long-term ramifications of the pandemic. Also creating concern is the lack of available care workers to look after the ever-growing elderly population. Concerningly, half of care workers in England earn less than entry level supermarket roles, with 165,000 vacancies in the social care workforce around the country. The skills shortage is also hindering any progress in seamless and robust discharge to assess (D2A) pathways, with shortages leaving workers struggling to provide the quality of care that is required once patients are sent home.
Furthermore, where social care resources are not able to support patients ready for discharge from Primary care, the end result regardless of their potential ability to live at home independently means that they are placed into care homes which are already at breaking point. This is illustrated by the fact that many care home residents’ basic needs are now being unmet. Vulnerable people are reportedly being left alone in their rooms for 24 hours a day, with many also denied showers for a week. The sector is truly at a crossroads, with change urgently needed.
The tide is beginning to turn
Encouragingly, the care sector is beginning to understand how technology can transform delivery, with health and social care leaders taking steps to future-proof systems and processes. From simpler deployments such as tele consultations rolled out during the pandemic, to innovative trials involving AI applications for lung cancer detection, huge digital advances are now taking place. This is set to be supported by increased investment of £150 million by The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).
In adult social care, the DHSC wants solutions that support independent living. This is where investment in health monitoring technologies such as Lilli, for example, has the capacity to make such a significant difference.
Technology in action
Lilli’s remote monitoring solution leverages data and machine learning to deliver a proactive approach to vastly improve care outcomes and resource-allocation for the elderly and vulnerable. This is completely different from conventional, and often clumsy reactive approaches that rely on alarm based systems. Lilli instead takes data from discrete sensors that are placed in the home and records behaviours such as movement, eating and drinking, bathroom and night time activity. Its algorithm then analyses this data to provide a baseline for what a ‘normal’ pattern of behaviour is for each service-user.
With machine learning capabilities, the platform will flag slight deviations from the norm which could imply either an improving or declining state of health. By focusing on identifying issues before they happen, worsening health conditions and unnecessary accidents , such as a slip, trip or fall that could result in hospitalisation can be avoided allowing people the freedom to continue living independently in their own homes. For example, increased bathroom activity at night could arise from an infection, which if left untreated could have a significant health impact. On the other hand, however, the platform may find a person’s increased mobility indicates that they are recovering more quickly than expected, meaning a reduction in care visits is possible.
Lilli’s technology has already been implemented as part of a trial with Dorset Council, which was firmly focused on proactive patient care and optimisation of resource management. The solution was used across five social care teams caring for 100 people discharged from hospital to their homes, with Lilli then measuring the effectiveness of the data streams from both the perspective of service users and Dorset Occupational Therapists.
The results of the trial spoke for themselves. Figures showed that long-term use of Lilli technology will result in annualised savings of 780 hours of occupational therapy time and cost savings of £250,000. Dorset Council is able to reduce the frequency of daily visits to newly discharged patients, creating savings of up to £4,000 per person annually. Not only this, but by enabling a patient to remain at home as opposed to entering residential care, Dorset Council can save more than £30,000 per year.
The right technology that addresses real changes
Without fully understanding the challenges being faced, it’s hard to evaluate whether the solutions chosen are having a positive effect. Organisations need to adopt more innovative approaches, giving leaders an insight into how technology can make a lasting impact. It’s clear there are both societal benefits and economic value in using health data, insights and analytics, and there is an emerging acceptance that technology triggers vital operational change that the care sector very much needs.
Many are failing to deliver the increased care and support needed due to staffing shortfalls, so solutions must go hand-in-hand with improved training to lift digital skills. Professionals need to see that technology can transform care delivery and is more than just a supplementary tool. That said, we must always recognise that technology can never replace human contact or fully replicate the wide range of skills and knowledge possessed by care professionals.
The potential of technology to transform the way we deliver social care is almost limitless and we need to act now. Thankfully, attitudes to digital transformation are shifting fast. Remote monitoring solutions are already demonstrating how they can reduce the cost of care hours and unnecessary hospital visits, with potential benefits extending to easier care assessments and reduced paperwork or unnecessary journeys. To find out why there has never been a better time for investment in social care technology, read this piece by Gren Paull, CEO at Lilli on TechRound:https://techround.co.uk/startups/gren-paull-ceo-lilli/