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Social care slow to adopt digital tech despite benefits



Only a handful of councils, housing and care organisations are delivering digital care in people’s homes at scale to cut hospital admissions, speed up emergency response time and reduce long waits for formal social care, a new report has found.

Published by the TEC Action Alliance, the report found no large-scale use of digital services, despite evidence that using technology in social care keeps people safe, healthy and happy at home,

There are isolated examples of activity but little integration within the broader social care and health ecosystem.

Alyson Scurfield, CEO of TEC Services Association (TSA) and co-chair of the TEC Action Alliance said:

“At a time of immense pressure on NHS and social care services, digital care services can put power in the hands of people, helping them to self-manage their own health and live the life they want to lead.

“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.”

Over the past five months, the TEC Action Alliance has heard evidence from a range of people who draw on care, along with frontline workers and leaders in care, health, housing and local government.

More than 2,000 people were surveyed on their attitudes towards, and use of, technology enabled care (TEC), with focus groups held with individuals who have lived experience.

Research into housing associations, councils and health bodies that use technology to integrate care services was also conducted.

Results show that digital social care services:

  • Reduce ambulance trips to A&E by 68 per cent
  • Help 85 per cent of people remain at home if emergency calls are handled by TEC responder teams
  • Cut emergency response times to 30 mins
  • Help to refer 40 per cent of people to community services rather than formal social care (compared to 7 per cent pre-pandemic).

Although survey results indicate a strong appetite among people of all ages to use technology in health and care, 86 per cent said they are likely or extremely likely to use it in the future – evidence also shows this potential isn’t yet being realised.

Only 18 per cent of respondents currently use telecare or telehealth services and half of these people use it less than once a week.

Barriers revealed in the report include safety concerns, a lack of confidence and perceptions that digital care is expensive.

The report calls on care commissioners and suppliers to listen to what people want and co-produce their services and products with individuals to ensure there is an enhanced focus on personal needs.

It also asks that health and care data is shared more widely, with consent, to enable a joined-up response at the local level.

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

The TEC Action Alliance will now seek to identify how to bridge the divide between personalising and scaling services.

It will develop an action paper to evidence the relationship between engaging people who draw on care and delivering successful outcomes.

Clenton Farquharson MBE, Chair of Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) and co-chair of the TEC Action Alliance said:

“Currently, we talk about digitising social care, health and housing: 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.

“It’s a chance to step back from the equipment, solutions and systems and re-evaluate what really matters.”

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