Telehealth

Leveraging innovation: the human and financial benefits of digital care

By: Tom Morton, CEO, Communicare 24/7
Published: Tuesday, February 23, 2016 - 13:14 GMT Jump to Comments

Outdated infrastructure and an increasingly fragmented market threaten the future of technology-enabled integrated care.

Growing elderly populations and stretched resources means that great hope is being placed in technology-enabled care to help citizens maintain independence and provide support for their carers.

The personal alarms and health monitoring devices that, for many, are a critical lifeline often rely on outdated technology - the telephone landline, for example. These are at risk when people forget to check equipment or if other devices fail, and are often only effective within close proximity to the home. Current technology that aspires to support more independent living can be restrictive and is starting to look out of place in the UK’s smartphone society.

Councils have invested heavily in such analogue telecare solutions, but these investments need urgent review if the UK is to deliver care that helps people maintain their independence and is connected to the support networks they need. Digital technology can provide a better and more efficient service that benefits all.

Health and social care providers can monitor and care for people in their own homes in the most efficient way possible. Carers, next of kin, emergency services and housing providers can also use the information that digital platforms can provide through alarms, location-finding, or video conferencing.

Such approaches are shown to improve rates of self-care and reduce hospital admissions. Social benefits include reducing isolation and relieving carer and relative anxiety. Financially, savings could be considerable. In Scotland, for example, we have estimated that digitally-enabled remote monitoring could save £15m a year by redirecting resources to those that need it most.

Consumers can see the potential of this approach for themselves and their loved ones. Many go into high street stores to buy their own telecare solutions. Some use phoneline-based systems, others look to mobile and broadband. But a more consistent approach is required so that information, devices and services can share information to support the ambitions of integrated care.

Promising but isolated innovations 

Some health bodies and local authorities understand the challenge and are exploring innovative approaches. The Dallas project, for example, aims to transform current health and social care services into a more citizen-led model with the use of assisted living technology. Smart home devices are being used to help keep elderly individuals in touch with carers. Some local authorities are looking to provide digital platforms to support integrated care ambitions.

However, such innovations have been isolated and do not provide the necessary foundations. Council providers trying to meet the demands for improved services and information provision need adequate technical infrastructure to support such initiatives.

The right people need to be involved as well as the technology. NHS England guidance on digital roadmaps requires the involvement of local authorities but other services, such as housing or emergency services, should also play a part.

Meanwhile the Scottish Government is pooling budgets, investing in digital infrastructure and having wide-ranging conversations to help make digitally-enabled integrated care a reality. This is definitely a step in the right direction.

Digital solutions can enable the delivery of multi-agency, person-centred care. The UK is well-placed to lead this drive but the country needs to work together to make it happen.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.

Comments

Latest

County Durham voters back devolution in the North-East, Sir Digby Jones considers run for West Midlands mayor…

The recent launch of The Mayoral Tech Manifesto 2016 on London’s digital future, sets out a clear agenda…

The manufacturing industry is currently facing scrutiny from parties concerned for its survival. Far from facing…

Almost a year ago, I made some predictions for what would take place in government and public sector customer…

Sheffield, Warrington and Doncaster announce cuts, Lincolnshire is held to data ransom, fight begins for West…

Working for an education charity delivering numeracy and literacy programmes in primary schools, I’m only…

Northamptonshire County Council recently received the maximum four star rating from Better connected after putting…

Historically, the entrance of new generations into the workplace has caused varying levels of disruption. The…

Following another commendation for digital services, Surrey County Council's Web and Digital Services Manager,…

We cannot carry on spinning the roulette wheel that is cyber security, knowing that the “castle and moat”…

This week David Cameron wades into row over £69m of cuts planned by Oxfordshire CC; Stoke on Trent plans…