Untapped potential: the power of technology to transform social care

Over the course of a year, our four reports into the tech landscape in social care have provided valuable insights into technology’s potential for improving care

16th December 2021 about a 3 minute read
"We believe care is active and engaging – people shouldn’t just be cared for, and self-care is equally important throughout life. Currently this isn’t reflected in technology solutions." Greg Allen, CEO, FCC

At Future Care Capital, we raise the debate about the future of health and care.  We are interested in the experience people have of the health and care system and how it can be a modern, fit for purpose system.

Over the course of 2021, we have published four reports exploring the landscape of adult social care technology, each accompanied by a webinar that brought together stakeholders to discuss the findings and their implications. 

Each report examined a different part of the adult social care sector: home care technology; mental health care; learning disability care; and, in the last week, residential care.   

 Although there has been much discussion about the impact digital technology can have on health care, much less attention has been paid to the potential such technology has for transforming social care. 

Co-production with users is essential

Our reports identified some common themes. In each part of the sector we looked at, there was a relatively small number of start-ups, offering a limited range of technologies. Some of these showed great promise, but there is clearly still a huge amount of untapped potential. It became very clear, for example, that there is a need for co-production with users themselves to create technologies that meet their needs. 

The report we published earlier this month on the residential care tech landscape, and the accompanying live online panel discussion, exemplified some of those points. We found only 58 companies meeting our criteria, a surprisingly small number given the size of the sector. We also found the sector to be relatively fragmented, with innovation dispersed across many locations. 

Tech in the residential care sector is dominated by productivity software that improves the metrics of care delivery, such as driving efficiency, cost-savings or time-savings. Of the 58 technologies we looked at, 53 were aimed at carers. This leaves a tiny portion for users of care services and technology that is tailored directly to the consumer.

Better data collection can make a difference

As with our other reports, we noted gaps – and therefore opportunities – in the market. For example, the deployment of Internet of Things tech (IoT) combined with AI could play an important role in the automation of data input and processing. Accurate data collection is hugely important for care homes to show evidence of the quality of care to regulators.  Better data collection would also allow for the development of more tailored technologies.

We also noted that there is very little in the way of tech aimed at care home residents themselves, empowering them to manage their own care. We believe care is active and engaging – people shouldn’t just be cared for, and self-care is equally important throughout life. Currently this isn’t reflected in technology solutions.

The four reviews have been valuable learning and engagement exercises, demonstrating just how much opportunity there is for tech innovators who want to make an impact – informed by the views and perspective from our audience. Like the NHS, social care is facing the twin problems of increased demand and a workforce shortage. Technology offers great potential for maximising efficiency in the sector, both through productivity tools, and through remote monitoring technologies that can allow people to stay in their own homes for longer.

Looking ahead to 2022, we hope that the work we’ve done this year will enable imaginative entrepreneurs interested in this sector to develop solutions that can address some of the big challenges we face as a society.