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Addressing the elderly care gap through tech

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A technology-enabled home care provider is using machine learning and data analytics to predict the onset of health deteriorations in the elderly before they occur.

Elderly care is a notoriously underfunded and overstretched sector. According to Age UK, 1.5 million people aged 65 and over don’t receive care and support with their day-to-day living activities.

Cuts in government spending has put increasing pressure on the NHS and elderly care services.

UK company Cera Care is using technology to tackle these issues. The company’s app gives family members and medical practitioners up-to-date health information to predict and address the needs of elderly individuals in real-time. In February 2020, Cera launched SmartCare.

In its pilot stage, the platform was able to predict more than 700 previously undetected health deteriorations with 82% accuracy.

Cera Care was founded in 2016 by Dr Mahiben Maruthappu, co-founder of the NHS Innovation Accelerator. Maruthappu said: “The results from this service are phenomenal, and truly could be the difference between an older person requiring a stay in hospital with medical supervision, or not needing to visit in the first place, with the medical issue completely prevented.

“The database can also facilitate the personalisation of care, highlighting individual needs and preferences and even tracking the mood of patients. All of these aspects make it an incredible platform which detects changes in behaviour and raises concerns if necessary.”

Working as a frontline doctor, Maruthappu saw a lack of basic care for elderly patients and the potential for technology to improve outdated systems.

Maruthappu said: “It has always been hard to negotiate change within the care sector. It’s incredibly outdated, relies on a limited pot of funding and is buried in traditional and archaic ways of working. Ultimately, there’s no capital for investment or change from business or software advisors.

“However, the technology which Cera Care has access to is top tier, and as a company, it also has the capacity to invest in the tech solutions. There is no reason why the technology in the care industry can’t adopt the modern thinking that’s been behind the likes of Uber and Netflix; it just requires the ability to change instilled ways of working which is where Cera can really be differentiated.”

In terms of the role of technology in elderly care moving forward, Maruthappu believes a hybrid approach is required.

“Technology can support elderly care in lots of ways,” said Maruthappu, “but there are limits. This is why we say that Cera is ‘tech-enabled’; it facilitates the changes that we want to implement, but it only goes so far.

“Looking at the care sector as a whole, most scenarios will require a person to be there physically, but some elements of care can be purely conducted through tech, including remote calls, 24/7 sensor monitoring, and prediction of health deteriorations. For these parts of the care sector, all that is holding us back at present is costs.

“As sensors, software and technological products become less expensive and more widely available, this will give the opportunity to make the benefits of these technologies available to everyone.”

As part of its growth plans, Cera Care this week announced its acquisition of Mears Care Scotland, which will add more than 1,000 staff and 12 offices in Scotland to its operations. The multi-million-pound acquisition is part of Cera’s impressive growth since its launch less than four years ago.

The company has raised around US$90 million in debt and equity funding and is now one of the largest social care companies in Europe.

In the first half of this year, the company provided almost two million in-home care visits across its users.

In March, the company announced it would be creating 10,000 new care jobs in an effort to support the struggling industry and provide employment opportunities for those who had lost their job or were furloughed. As part of this wider recruitment drive, Cera will be recruiting 500 new members of staff across its offices in Scotland.

Ranpreet Grewal, finance director at Cera Care, said: “The first half of this year has reaffirmed how vital social care is across the UK as a whole. Ultimately, we want to provide as many people as possible with access to our technology.

“This deal means we are able to create hundreds of roles across Scotland to help put people back to work, provide best in class support to the country’s elderly community and further support the NHS during a time of unprecedented pressure.

“We had set ourselves the aim of establishing a national footprint in Scotland earlier this year, and this acquisition marks a huge achievement for everyone at Cera Care. The infrastructure and talent we have been able to bring in as a result of this deal provides us with an ideal platform from which to continue our growth in Scotland and the rest of the UK.”

The company plans to implement further expansion plans in the UK and internationally, considering options across Europe and the Middle East.

Earlier this year, Cera partnered with the UK Government to licence its recruitment technology and make it available for other care companies.

This made it possible for these companies to use digitalised processes to identify, recruit and train carers.

With a significant proportion of COVID-19 deaths occurring within care homes, Cera says the partnership came at a crucial time, making the recruitment and training processes faster and easier to manage.

The company is now able to train and deploy care workers in less than a week.

Maruthappu said: “The care sector has been under-resourced and under-funded for some time and COVID-19 has only exacerbated this further. As an industry, we’ve been under scrutiny since the beginning of the pandemic, tragically due to the significant proportion of deaths within care homes, but it needn’t have been this way and again, it largely comes down to funding.

“When comparing the guidance and funding given to the care sector against that of the NHS, the lack of parity is really overwhelming, with most social care providers being left in the dark about how to weather the storm.”

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