A new report finds that the adult social care sector is open to greater use of digital technology, but that current implementation is patchy
“An early priority is on falls prevention but we will also explore technologies to help prevent urinary tract infections, medications errors and bedsores, as well as tools that help connect people and support independence and wellbeing.” Alice Ainsworth, deputy director for adult social care technology policy, NHSX
Digital technology has much to offer adult social care, but its full potential has not yet been realised, according to two newly-published reviews that look at digital technologies and skills in the sector.
The publication of the reviews, which were commissioned by NHSX and carried out by Ipsos MORI, coincides with the government’s launch of a white paper outlining its plans for adult social care over the next three years. Those plans include spending £150m on driving greater adoption of technology and digitisation in social care.
The two reviews looked at the technologies currently in use and how they are used by representatives of the adult social care workforce, as well as people with care and support needs, unpaid carers, local authorities, and regulated care providers. Future Care Capital was a member of the expert reference group helping to shape and guide the research.
The researchers asked these groups their views on digital technologies and their levels of skill and confidence in using them. They also consulted technology suppliers and service providers, and digital learning and development providers.
The main findings, outlined in a report called NHSX Adult Social Care Technology and Digital Skills Review, include:
The report lists 16 recommendations in all, 10 from the skills review and six from the technology review. The skills review recommendations emphasise the importance of improving support for the use of digital technology in the workplace, and the need to develop good digital leadership skills. There should also be greater collaboration and co-production of solutions to improve providers’ understanding of the sector’s needs, the report says.
The technology review recommendations include more support to mitigate the impacts of a fragmented customer base, and the involvement of end users in the development of sector-wide standards. Investment in digital technology should be encouraged in view of both financial and non-financial benefits. “Care providers and local authorities need to be supported in making a business case for digital technology,” the report says.
In a blog post timed to coincide with publication of the report, Alice Ainsworth, deputy director for adult social care technology policy, NHSX, discusses the benefits digital technology can bring to the sector. She notes, for example, that digital social care records “can improve transfers of care and handovers between shifts, by ensuring staff have up-to-date information about people’s health and care needs,” but that currently only 30-40% of care providers are fully digitised.
Ainsworth outlines NHSX’s proposals for spending the government’s £150m investment in digitisation. One of these is to launch a new scheme to test care technologies and scale up the ones that have a proven benefit. “An early priority is on falls prevention but we will also explore technologies to help prevent urinary tract infections, medications errors and bedsores, as well as tools that help connect people and support independence and wellbeing,” Ainsworth writes.
The other proposals are: ensuring that at least 80% of care providers put a digitised care record in place that can connect to a shared care record; delivering fibre broadband upgrades to care homes; and provide digital learning opportunities to improve digital skills and confidence.
NHSX’s merger with NHS England will strengthen its ability to deliver the proposals, she writes.