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‘Proactive’ social care technology helps avoid hospital admissions

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Zuccaro believes technology in social care should be about supporting people from when they first need an additional hand

When someone talks about med tech, we know what they are talking about: products and devices used for diagnosis or treatment of a medical condition.

But we haven’t reached that stage in social care, and everyone will have a different answer to the question, ‘what is social care tech?’

“For many people they might think it can be defined by a support button connected to a landline – the kind which have been around for years,” Mario Zuccaro, founder of Oysta, told Health Tech World.

“But for me, that’s just a reactive service, and one which is like comparing a Ford Anglia to a modern-day saloon car when you look at the range of options now available.”

Zuccaro believes technology in social care should be about supporting people from when they first need an additional hand and which helps prevent the development of more critical needs.

“Care tech to me is something which allows an individual to live in their own home but to continues that support when they leave it; which is more than an alarm should someone fall over but uses sensors and delivers data which allow people to be proactive about providing care and support.

“It could be something which lets you know if a person hasn’t been drinking enough water or hasn’t taken their medication – and that data is directly available to frontline staff who use it to give help when it is needed.

“If we get to people earlier than we are doing, before an incident happens for example, we can take measures to prevent them becoming frail and needing long term residential care, which is incredibly expensive for the individual and the local authority.”

A need for alternatives

Mario Zuccaro, founder of Oysta, talks about social care technology

Funding for social care is an incredibly pertinent issue: along with the Health and Social Care Levy, there is now a cap of £86,000 for an individual to pay towards their care. It means there is a need for alternatives to costly residential care.

“If you give people the right support through tech, we can help avoid admissions to hospital,” Zuccaro said.

“Most vulnerable people go into hospital because it’s too late: they’ve caught an infection, or they’ve had a fall: we can turn that around and try to be proactive by using data provided by technology to give us insights.”

According to Carers UK, a charity which represents unpaid carers, around 6.5 million people in the UK are carers and every day, another 6,000 people take on a caring responsibility.

Their research found that 80 per cent of people caring for a loved one have felt lonely or socially isolated.

This is another area where Oysta believe social care tech can help, and they have letters from their customers – or Vulnerable Independent People (VIPs) as they are called – and their family members to prove it, thanking them for providing much needed support.

Real time information

“By using technology, we can bring care insights directly to these carers – whether they work for the local authority or they are family members at work and worrying about mum,” Zuccaro explained.

“Technology can provide real time information on someone’s activity levels, whether they’ve taken their medication or if they’ve gone out for a walk.

“It’s insights to provide personalised care and giving it to people on the front line, to support them in making better, quicker decisions.”

Rather than just providing devices or carers, at the heart of this model is data which allows everyone involved in a person’s care to act on changes in activity patterns which may indicate underlying health concerns before an incident happens.

It takes care from being reactive to preventative with the right technology.

Bridging the gap

It’s not a dissimilar model to ‘virtual wards’ but Oysta’s IntelliCare platform, where data from all the devices are fed, is designed to be used long term, bridging the gap between health and social care and providing efficient personalised care.

With the publication of the latest report on digital transformation, it’s an exciting time for the sector. But Zuccaro believes it is essential that the opportunity is not wasted.

“But the biggest disappointment for me is that we are replacing old analogue technology with the same thing connected to a digital phone line.

“You can’t talk to people and explain what’s going on, you can’t take it outside the house and we’re sending out ambulances to people when they don’t need them, when people are dying because ambulances aren’t available to turn up to patients that are having heart attacks.

“That’s not technology and it’s not making a difference: it’s still a box sat in a corner of a room attached to a button alarm, making no improvements to that individual.

“It’s about providing the most useful information to keep family, friends and carers informed, so instead of worrying about mum they can have simple information telling them that today, mum is active, she’s been to the fridge and have a drink of water to hydrate.”

A managed service

With more people alive over 65 than under 15, this is a sector which needs to find ways of becoming sustainable.

Oysta, by coming at this market from the angle of providing a managed service which works across short term illnesses or long-term support, believe they have come up with a model which delivers.

It was finding out the limited services being offered to his aunt which led Zuccaro to create Oysta. Initially supported by using traditional static personal alarms, she told him she’d switched it off because she wanted something to use when she went outside for a walk.

“I could not understand why they were giving an active 87-year-old something which only worked when she was indoors,” he explained to Health Tech World.

“Just because we’re getting older doesn’t mean we don’t want to go for a walk, see our friends: in fact, it’s probably more important because we know that keeping active prevents people from getting frail and weak.

“My aunt’s 92 now and she still walks to the local café every day. She’s safe at home and away from home.”

Zuccaro believes it is understanding what vulnerable people need which allows Oysta to be unique.

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