A technology thinktank has urged NHSX to set up ‘enablement panels’ to influence the development of technology for health and social care.
Doteveryone, which describes its focus as “responsible technology”, has made the recommendation as one of three in its newly published Better Care in the Age of Automation report.
The others are for a significant investment in skills to support the use of technology in social care, and the creation of a new national data strategy for social care.
The thrust of the report is that technology can help to solve some of the problems in social care, but if used unwisely it can make things worse, and that there are three necessary conditions for it to be successfully applied: better data, better skills and a better culture.
One of the prevailing problems is the culture in which the technology is applied: many benefits claimants are reluctant to adopt new technologies because they fear any change in their lives could jeopardise their support packages; and older and disabled people often do not see how technology can make their lives better.
This leads to the recommendation that NHSX, the policy body within the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) for digital care, should create a series of enablement panels run by disabled people, carers and families.
These would focus on the capacities and goals of people being supported and those around them, and should explore how new technologies and services could help achieve these goals.
The panels would have to be separated from benefits assessments and use an asset based and goal-oriented approach, and the project should include a training and support scheme to develop a cohort of people to take part.
The report also says the use of technology relies heavily on good quality data but there are significant gaps, such as in centrally collected information on waiting times for local authority care or the total level of funding in England. This makes it impossible to analyse how investment or cuts in services affect the performance of others.
In response, it calls on NHSX to set up a national data strategy for social care to measure the wellbeing and productivity of individuals, families and communities.
This would involve conducting research to understand wellbeing at these levels and incentivise the technology market to deliver value, hold a wide ranging discussion about which metrics should be included, and collaborate with councils, the Care Quality Commission and the Office for National Statistics on how to include these in surveys and evaluation.
Doteveryone’s recommendation on skills comes from recognising that making more use of technology requires more support, and that care professionals will need the skills to provide it.
Subsequently, it says the DHSC should set up a Royal College for Carers to professionalise the care workforce so they can effectively use technology not to replace, but augment their vital skills of empathy, creativity and social intelligence. It would require funding and qualified staff, but Doteveryone says it will save money over the long term through increased productivity, lower staff turnover and higher quality care.
In a Doteveryone blogpost accompanying the report’s publication, Lydia Nicholas says: “We believe that technology cannot replace care, but used well it could support radical social and structural change, taking us towards a future care system that is sustainable, fair and effective.
“Decision makers must recognise that technology can change and improve lives, but not without human support and not without a robust care innovation strategy that accounts for it.”
Image: Detail of report cover from Doteveryone