'Innovation is not out of reach - we just need to make better use of existing tech'
A follow-up event to the launch in February this year of the Future Care Capital Care Tech Landscape Review which explored start-up companies deploying technology in social care for those receiving care at home.
“We don’t have to hang around waiting for the next big thing. We just need to use what we already have differently.” Greg Allen, CEO, Future Care Capital
Government needs to invest billions in digital systems for social care in the same way it has done for healthcare.
That was the message from Vic Rayner, CEO of the National Care Forum, at an online event organised by Future Care Capital (FCC) to discus the future of home monitoring technology in adult social care.
Ms Rayner said the term “monitoring’ had unfortunate connotations and left the user feeling passive. But it should really be viewed as “peace of mind.”
“We have to get the balance right to be sure monitoring provides as much for the person whose data it is as it does for those around them who are gathering the information.
“In future, data will have a currency that we have not yet properly articulated.”
Amer Fasihi of Kraydel agreed, pointing out: “Data is just numbers until you can do something with it.
“The service provider or the family are the ones who are going to use the data, but the way we need to approach it is that data is owned by the individual themselves.
“For them to share their data there needs to be a reason – a quid pro quo… People just have two questions: ‘How normal am I?’ and ‘What’s going to happen next?’
“If the data can be processed in a way answers to those questions, you can start to see people really engaging.”
He said that his company was focusing on making use of existing technology that people were already familiar with.
“We use television sets which are the most widely used technology in people’s homes.
“We’re trying to use the TV and configure the room around it to enable people to embrace new ways of working… People will adapt and change as long as the changes are incremental.
“The other point is: the social care sector is stuck in delivering care face to face and that needs to change. It has to move to virtual.”
Mario Zuccaro said he founded his company, Oysta Technology, because of the experience of his elderly aunt. She was an ex major in the military and had led an active life, but she needed some extra support as she grew older.
“They fitted equipment at her home in Devon and she was told ‘if you need help press this button. But you must stay inside these four walls – if you go outside you are on your own.
“I was shocked – it’s jut not good enough…. Monitoring today is not where we need to be. There are huge gaps. But I think the future is bright.”
However he said one development he was not convinced about was Artificial Intelligence (AI).
“I think people are losing site of the meaning of personal care and personal support… We believe in taking the ‘A’ out of AI. The technology provides information for intelligent people – the staff, the family, the doctors.
“These are the people who spend time with the vulnerable person every day. They need the information presented in the right way to help them understand the insights and the outcomes that will improve people’s lives.”
Vic Rayer said it was time to start thinking about greater use of systems for preventative work. “Lets consider how the technology can encourage people to join social care rather than how it will replace roles, which is always people’s fear in this context.
“Never mind about the next shiny new thing – we need to make sure we invest properly in getting skills up to speed.”
She added that some of the most exiting developments in technology were those helping people to control their own environment, for example a simple thing like opening or closing the windows.
“Without the technology people will have to take a more passive role in their own lives. Our ambition should be to get the technology to the point where it enables people who can to manage as much of their own care as they can. Then the focus can move to supporting those who do not have the capacity to do that.
“But I don’t think we are anywhere near understanding what proper self-management is.”
She added that social care is a fragmented market with 18,000-20,000 different organisations who all think they know what they want.
“Put it together and that makes a whopping great market…. if we could get people to see that and develop tech that didn’t involve individuals having to use a difficult smart screen, but perhaps a device that could recognise sounds or rhythms tapped out… then that could be used to enable a larger group to self-manage and it would be a real game changer.”
Summing up the meeting, the chair, Greg Allen, said it was striking how the pandemic has forced the pace of change and been such a catalyst for the adoption of new technology.
“We heard from the panel about the need for more effective use of the technology we already have.
“So many look at technology and innovation as something almost out of reach. They think we must wait for the boffins to invent it when in fact so much of it is already here.
“We don’t have to hang around waiting for the next big thing. We just need to use what we already have differently.”
And he added that there had been some good points made about the issue of data protection. “We give away a whole load of data on our phones every time we say yes to cookies. Yet there’s this big reluctance when it comes to new technology for healthcare because people are concerned about allowing access to their data.
“In 50 years those people who have grown up with the internet may well look at things very differently to how we do now”.
To view a recording of the event click here