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Toolkits 7th November 2019

Why is technology becoming integral to good quality social care?

By Nuno Almeida

Technology in Social Care…

Since Kate Terroni became Chief Inspector this Summer, I have been reflecting on how a new person in that post would see their role in promoting innovation in the care sector. It was with childlike excitement that I read Kate’s latest blog post. In this, Kate describes how she has been shadowing some of her inspectors and her findings – and it was fantastic to get her initial thoughts on the use of technology by care teams.

Speaking with carers I have found that this technology means they can spend more time with the people they support and less time doing paperwork — a welcome benefit of technology.”, Kate Terroni, Oct 2019

And what is the most refreshing is the clarity of thought on the difference between “using technology” and “innovation”, something that resonates immensely with how we see the world at Nourish.

We have long been believers that carefully designed technology, with the right associated services, can enable a whole range of cultural changes. Including how care teams perceive their own ability to drive innovation. It is important that care teams don’t develop a perception that innovation is something you buy. It is not.

Care teams showing CQC what good technology can achieve is a wonderful demonstration that technology makes a difference for them. It hasn’t always been this way.

Going Forward with Technology in Social Care …

Going forward it’s important to acknowledge that for a long time, many people misunderstood the potential for technology in Social Care. With a dozen challenges constantly putting pressure on care teams, the prospect of making a big change such as embracing digital tools for managing care has often filled people with dread – which is very understandable. And historically it wasn’t just for fear of change that care teams have put this off.

The maturity of the products available has come a long way in the last 5 years. Prior attempts to adopt technology by care teams invariably resulted in frustration – products that looked amazing in the eyes of a manager or the owner of a care home ended up requiring hours of training for care workers with clunky user experience, poor customer support, resulting in failed uptake, and a background feeling that “technology doesn’t work in social care”. Care workers were never heard in the process of choosing digital tools, and the introduction of technology was often done in the assumption that it would “help the numbers by making carers more efficient” – as if efficiency could be introduced by some sort of industrial process of optimisation. Thankfully, the sector and the technology that supports it have moved on.

Person Centred Care…

Like any context that is as complex and nuanced as social care, the thought of designing technology at arm’s length resulted in oversimplified solutions often shaped within a software team which would then sell it as fast as possible – this was never going to work. So, what is it about social care that is so different from, say, healthcare? Why can’t we just use a personal health record and expand it?

Well, we can’t. We can’t because social care is not just about someone’s condition or frailty. Good social care services support the person as a whole. And people are extremely diverse – society as a whole is learning that there is no such thing as a template for an “older person” – as we have more people living longer our cultural stereotypes of what is an “older person” are crumbling – older people are “people” – we can’t stereotype them. And therefore, there is no universal template for an Older Person’s Care Plan. Good social care for a person living with frailty supports the person in a way that is aware of the whole person – not just of their frailty. And whereas a person has dozens of encounters with healthcare services in a year, the same person may have dozens of encounters with their care team in a single day.

Ven Diagram of care needs for people needing support
Care Plans are as diverse as the people they are designed to support.

Care Plans are as diverse as the people they are designed to support.

Empowering Care Teams…

So, having spent 6 years continuously co-designing Nourish with hundreds of care providers, it’s no surprise care teams feel so different about us. We are not a “technology” company. We are a company that uses a software product and services to make care teams feel empowered to improve and innovate in the context of the care they provide. Carers don’t need to sit on training sessions for hours, it’s intuitive technology that allows them to understand the context of a person, know how to support and what’s important for the person, record naturally as part of providing support rather than “doing record keeping at the end of the shift”, and feel empowered. Empowered because they can spend more time with the people they support. And in addition, from knowing their residents better, they can continuously innovate, suggest adjustments to support plans, identify shifts in personal preferences or suggest new activities that are likely to improve the quality of life for each person.

Innovation happens when care providers design new and better ways to discharge people from hospital, or when they find different ways to enable people to go on a holiday, fulfil a last wish, increase their comfort, find or revive a sense of purpose,  supporting every person, old and young, to be and feel the best they can feel.

Technology that enables care teams to do this, will be at the heart of all good care teams in the future. And we are delighted to see the Care Quality Commission so clearly sharing our vision on this.

Could technology help your care service?

Find out more about whether using an electronic care planning could help you and those you support here.

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