Future Perfect in Social Care?
by Morten Mathiesen, Sekoia CMO
The debate around the use of technology and robots in adult social care is becoming increasingly lively. My role as a developer of software that supports care workers in delivering assistance, leads me indirectly to muse on the possibilities surrounding the use of robots in direct care roles.
How would this work? Could this even work?
One imagines Star Trek monstrosities wading in to start fixing ulcers or administering meds – but these are extremes and in reality it isn’t going to be this way. It needn’t be a nightmarish future ahead and it’s not something that is going to happen overnight, but it will evolve and adapt incrementally as technology gives up its new enhancements and improvements. For the moment, it’s better to get the best out of our already competent and highly skilled care workforce by equipping them with the best technological support we can.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, recently released a long-term vision in the form of the NHS ten year plan. With some £20bn backing, the 134-page strategy sets out a series of objectives for the NHS, leaving out all mention of the long-awaited Green Paper on social care. Future models of funding and commissioning are overdue and in high demand. Alas, we are waiting for politicians and policy makers to make that final leap and commit 100% to bridging the gap between health and social care. Despite a pledge to put the country’s health service on a “digital first” agenda, it looks like it will take a long time to achieve. In spite of an ever-growing workforce in IT, it can still be hard to get an e-mail through the antiquated NHS system. So what hope is there for a joined-up health AND social care system with information flowing seamlessly backwards and forwards?
It is my view that fixing the slim to no-impact tech obsessions is not the answer. We should focus on really cleaning up the paperwork burden and streamlining health and social care IT. We regularly have access to home care and care home situations, and have witnessed scenarios in which care practically takes place in the dark ages. In this day and age it doesn’t need to be this way! We have tech solutions to fix this and free up more time for carers to focus on looking after people. Professional carers without adequate support and only meagre access to live data or person-relevant information, are spending more time on coping and less time on caring. Unfortunately, this combination of negative factors is a cocktail for unintended, yet major errors and incidents.
From a compliance point of view, relying on paper records to travel back and forth between destinations and professionals, be it hospital discharges with 14 days delay or from a provider’s office to someone’s home, is a major risk. The world of information sharing doesn’t function on paper any more – in these situations digital is quicker, more secure, convenient, cheaper and greener, why wouldn’t you choose this option?
The future of social care is currently in stasis – while we await the Green Paper, nothing advances. But what is clear is that we need to start addressing basic, elementary issues, to help those in dire need of the country’s health and social care services. Yes, we should embrace technology and have ambition and vision for the robotics and AI services coming down the line that will nurture the nation’s health and social care needs. But! This must be tempered with a focus on a wholesale switch-over to established, tried and tested digital methods to bring infrastructure up to speed.
So will there be a future perfect social care? There is a long way to go, yet despite the worrying silence from the decision-makers, Sekoia is excited to be meeting the challenge of giving our excellent social care workforce (and those they care for), the technological support they deserve and need. We are optimistic about a future in social care that embraces innovation whilst staying true to the caring values that characterise this wonderful sector.
If you are interested in streamlining the paperwork in your care organisation, contact Sekoia to learn more about digital care planning that improves care delivery and saves you time.