Senior citizen using tablet technology and headphones

By David Lynes, Managing Director of Unique IQ

At a recent conference hosted by healthcare intelligence organisation LaingBuisson, home care leaders agreed that if there could be some good to come out of the coronavirus pandemic, it was the change brought about by greater use of technology within the sector.

A time of sweeping change

In these unprecedented circumstances, we have witnessed rapid digital transformation and adoption of new technology, in domiciliary and social care, and particularly within the public sector. As quoted in a recent article for the BBC, Adrian Byrne, Chief Information Officer at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHSFT), remarked how “many people within the NHS are talking about two years of transformation done in two weeks.”

It is a speed of change not seen before. Many digital projects that had been left on the back burner for years, have been suddenly accelerated and rapidly deployed. From virtual ID cards, to video conferencing, to digital note taking, former barriers have been overcome by a more urgent need. In many cases, this hugely challenging situation has been the push that was needed for both health and care providers to embrace technology.

The irony of course, is that certain difficulties may not have arisen if the tech had been in place sooner – throwing into focus the difficult balance between short-term outlay and long-term gain. But with the technology now in place, it is already building a much bigger evidence-base for its future use. Our friends at TSA put it perfectly: the pandemic has demonstrated the need for change and disruption in how we deliver services within the community. Change is no longer coming, it has arrived.

It has been a big moment for the UK healthtech, and indeed caretech, industry.

The need for trust

However, sweeping changes in the way we use technology must not come at any further human expense.

The recent Digital Attitudes report, published by responsible technology thinktank doteveryone, highlighted that while the majority of people surveyed acknowledge the benefit that technology has on their lives, it does come at a cost. Respondents were grateful for the ability to continue to work, maintain friendships and access information during the pandemic thanks to technology. But the report also revealed a deep mistrust of technology providers (particularly some of the big names). Many felt powerless to influence what technology companies do and are resigned to services where harmful experiences are perceived to be part of the everyday.

So as the current crisis response paves the way for new digital ways of working in the NHS and social care, it is important that the proper safeguards are in place, particularly around data. It has become even more evident that breaking down silos of data can revolutionise approaches to care. The care sector wants to be able to share data quickly and easily with anyone who may need to use it or reference it, but in a safe and secure way.

As Sarah Wilkinson, CEO of NHS Digital commented: “Most people will not want to go back to the old ways of paper-based processes and systems. I think we’ll stick to this new way of using technology. BUT there will need to be new and clear legal basis set after COVID-19.”

For long term good

In a poll taken during the previously mentioned LaingBuisson conference, 48% of delegates said more use of technology will be the thing that will most impact home care providers after the pandemic.

We have long talked about technology as a positive force for change within home care. And since the start of the pandemic, we have seen home care providers increasingly turn to technology to help them reduce risk, support carers, clients and families, and deliver better care.

We very quickly responded to the need to keep both carers and clients safe, by developing new tools in our care management software. This included mandatory hand washing tasks and reminders, digital risk assessment forms and contingency planning features. We also recently launched a new Care Quality Management dashboard, which presents a clear overview of the critical numbers relating to care in an easy to digest, visual way – such as trends in hospitalisations or delays in MAR sheet sign-offs.

Above all, we have made sure we are here to help home care providers make the most of the technology they have to improve standards of care. From online training via the now ubiquitous Zoom meeting, to listening to the daily challenges of frontline care and responding with new features, we are here to support the home care sector and in exceptional times, to innovate like never before.