The Care Quality Commission has published its latest report on the state of adult health and social care in England.
The data compiled within this document concentrates on the quality and quantity of care available within England for both mental and physical health. The report tackles several issues and hurdles faced within care, such as recruitment and staffing within the sector, the availability of beds and equipment, and shortages in highly skilled and specialist professionals.
The report also discusses how technology and innovation is helping to make a significant and positive impact throughout the care sector, from the view of both client and professional workers.
Innovations in care
In July 2019, the Care Quality Commission stated that one of its main strategic priorities was to “encourage innovation, as we know it can drive improvements in the quality of care”. The new State of Care report recounts several positive developments in this area, with “a range of technologies being used to deliver care in more effective ways and to help people get a better experience in care”. It also cited how technology is increasingly expected within care settings, with research from Healthwatch England finding “broad support for more technological solutions for accessing health and social care services”.
The CQC acknowledges the evolution of technology is fast-moving, and that change is not always easy to get used to. Existing problems include IT infrastructure, resistance from both staff and clients and a lack of funding. As part of this, the CQC states the support of innovation and technology should be a “constant checkpoint for providers”, ensuring “we keep people safe and encourage better care through innovation at a strategic level”.
One of the key findings of the report was that more room and support need to be given for innovations in care – which extends to the use of technology. It cites the challenge for health and social care organisations to consider technology in a “broader strategic sense, as an enabler of high quality care”.
The challenges faced
So in the case of adopting new technologies, not everything is smooth sailing. Although technology is considered as an “enabler of high-quality care” it still faces several hurdles, particularly within some smaller regions of England where local communities are highly influenced by one leading member.
Amongst the barriers identified, the CQC listed the cost of adopting new technology, knowledge and attitudes of staff, the perceived complexity of switching to a new system, the suitability of existing IT infrastructures, and concerns over data protection and the ethics of data sharing. It also highlighted additional challenges posed by language and cultural differences, as well as the practical issue of network connectivity.
Clearly then, the implementation of new technology can involve the winning over of hearts and minds, as much as the robustness of existing systems and procedures. Software providers and care organisations alike need to consider both the technology and the humans that use it.
And indeed, part of the focus of the CQC’s report is to introduce technology whilst reminding users the care they will receive will remain person-centred. Technology should “enhance, rather than replace, human support”.
Despite the many challenges being faced by the care sector, the CQC report found substantial evidence of technology being used to support staff and improve care delivery.
The report states how technology can improve access to services, help staff deliver care more effectively, improve people’s experiences of care, enable better information sharing between different care providers and support people to become more independent.
One example of technology enabling more effective care is the use of electronic recording systems and mobile devices, such as our IQ:timecard software, which make it easier to access people’s care plans.
One CQC inspector noted “electronic care plans make it easier to involve people in their own care, as staff can sit with them and talk through their care plan and add selfies or photos from their day.” As part of our software solution, people receiving home care, as well as their families, have access to a family portal – a secure online area for viewing important information about their care, including activities carried out by care workers during a visit. People can also upload images, share memories and communicate directly with their care provider, helping them to form stronger bonds, as well as having greater involvement in the care they receive.
Other examples recorded included the use of video software to attend appointments virtually, supporting diagnoses through the use of mobile phone cameras, and voice-activated systems to bolster independence.
But whilst there were numerous standalone accounts of technology supporting care, the big challenge emphasised by the CQC’s report was a strategic one. It identified that while many projects were benefitting people, they were often piecemeal in nature; the CQC has not yet found “enough examples of joined-up thinking between commissioners and providers that has new technology central to improving the quality of care for people”.
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