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Low take up of digital care claims alliance


Gary Flood Correspondent

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A body that claims to represent 30-plus UK care organisations says “only a handful of councils, housing and care organisations” are actually delivering digital care in people’s homes at scale -- with only 18% of 2000 respondents contacted currently using telecare or telehealth services, and half only doing so less than once a week

Despite evidence that using technology in social care keeps people safe, healthy and happy at home, the report found isolated examples of “activity but little integration” of digital care within the broader British social care and health ecosystem.

That’s a problem, it says, as it means efforts to cut hospital admissions, speed up emergency response times and reduce long waits for formal social care are being held back.

Although feedback indicate strong interest amongst people of all ages to use technology in health and care -- 86% said they are “likely” or “extremely likely” to use it in the future -- evidence also shows that there’s not a lot of actual use in the field yet.

Such low take-up may also suggest conflict between ambitions around shaping digital care around people’s needs and the reality of deploying such services at scale.

Barriers to uptake

The data has been compiled by an organisation called the TEC (technology-enabled care) Action Alliance. This is the voice of 30-plus care organisations including Care England, Carers UK, Housing LIN, TEC Services Association (TSA) and Think Local Act Personal (TLAP).

TEC (technology-enabled care) Action Alliance’s aim is to promote technology-enabled care to empower individuals, their families, care givers and communities. Some tech players are also members, as it’s linked to the TEC Services Association (TSA), which is the representative body for TEC services across the UK.

Barriers to uptake, states the body, include safety concerns, a lack of confidence and perceptions that digital care is expensive.

The data represents five months of research, says the Alliance. Over 2,000 people were surveyed on their attitudes towards, and use of technology enabled care. A range of care users, along with frontline workers and leaders in care, health, housing and local government, were consulted, as were housing associations, councils and health bodies that use technology to integrate care services. Focus groups were also held with individuals who have lived experience of such tech.

Re-evaluate what really matters

Commenting on the results, Alyson Scurfield, CEO of TEC Services Association (TSA) and co-chair of the TEC Action Alliance, said, “We’ve found some pockets of good technology-enabled care, but still no national adoption. To address this, we must understand how technology-enabled care can be better personalised and scaled.”

Clenton Farquharson MBE, Chair of Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) and co-chair of the TEC Action Alliance, added, “We talk about digitising social care, health and housing and re-engineering systems and processes; what I don’t hear about are ‘technology-enabled lives’, where the ambitions and aspirations of the individual come first, made possible by digital.

“This paper is a welcome opportunity to rethink technology-enabled care and what people actually want from it -- to step back from the equipment, solutions and systems and re-evaluate what really matters.”

The Alliance is now calling on care commissioners and suppliers to listen carefully to what people want and co-produce their services and products with individuals to ensure there is enhanced focus on personal needs. It also asks that health and care data is -- with user consent -- shared more widely to enable a joined-up response, locally.

In addition, the report recommends that care technology is integrated within broader NHS plans around virtual wards, plus that funding is made available for preventative technology, proactively supporting people at home rather than purely for hospital discharge.

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