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What’s the vision for the social care journey in 2024?

By Steve Sawyer, Managing Director, Access Health, Support and Care



Integrated care systems have matured over the last year, as have efforts to join up health and social care services.

That said, there is still great variation in digital maturity between the two, with social care sadly lagging behind.

The care journey is often a largely disjointed, analogue process, with unnecessary admin-heavy elements.

However, demand for social care services continues to rise, budgets are tighter, staffing levels are difficult to maintain, and services are under greater scrutiny, and finding ways to release capacity is really important in such a challenging context.

The key issues social care has been facing are capacity, cost, and complexity.

Currently, most social care providers have a case management system in place, but they do little to help manage these operational challenges.

In fact, there is major untapped potential in these systems, and the care journey could look vastly different if they were better utilised.

There are many opportunities to innovate across the social care pathway, from streamlining commissioning, to enabling digital social prescribing, all of which will help to provide more person centred care and free up time for staff to spend with individuals.

The care continuum 

However, the most important step to take is to stop looking at the social care pathway as linear and understand it as a care continuum.

This view is person-centred, recognising that an individual may need to access support at different points of the pathway at the same time.

Looking at social care in this way will make it possible to deliver interconnected, seamless interactions with individuals, by providing the visibility to understand, prevent and intervene to improve individual outcomes throughout a persons care journey.

There are already examples of this happening.

For example, West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board has been able to reduce the amount of time taken to deliver homecare services by 35 per cent using our digital commissioning system, Access Adam, and Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust has seen a 17 per cent reduction in GP attendances by enabling digital social prescribing with Access Elemental.

But 2024 is the year I hope to see more organisations realise this potential.

With the target for 80 per cent of social care providers to have a digital care record in place by March 2024, there isn’t time for them not to.

Digitalisation, innovation, integration 

These examples showcase what the social care pathway could look like for more organisations in 2024; a pathway underpinned by digitalisation, innovation and integration.

For West Yorkshire, digitalisation has enabled them to take their yearly invoices to be processed down from 10,000 to 52.

At Mersey Care, innovation has helped them to save £372,620 in appointments by delivering social prescriptions instead.

And at Somerset Council, integration with our Rio electronic patient record (EPR) into its public health nursing service is making it possible for health visits to be delivered more quickly and efficiently, supporting population health.

The 2024 vision

An integrated system across the care continuum can help to solve the challenges of capacity, cost, and complexity by focusing on prevention, and delivering services in the right place at the right time.

Integrated care is synonymous with person-centred care.

The sooner we view care as a continuum, with services that centre around the individual, the sooner we can unlock capacity in social care at scale.

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