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By Debbie le Quesne

Care in crisis: Is technology a lifeline?

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Cuts in local authority budgets for social care, demand for services on the rise, care homes struggling to make ends meet, more pressure from CQC . . . the picture is bleak even to those of us for whom the glass is half full.

A guy named Richard Pantlin organsied the #CareApps Showcase last month in Leeds, alongside the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and technology representative body techUK. He recently has tabled some interesting questions and not least: can technology save the care and health sector?

So do we think care apps can replace frontline staff? Err, NO! In fairness neither does he, but he does make a good fist at selling the benefits of how apps could possibly reduce pressures on the sector

Pantlin maintains they can: Improve efficiency of current council processes; build micro eco-systems of friends and family care around individuals in the community; and enable mixed staff groups towards truly integrated, person-centred working.

Good eh? Let’s take a look at a couple of things . . .

One of the key efficiency drivers is a self-service bit of software where people can fill in details online.

A good example of one of these is the online financial assessment offered by Oxford Computer Consultants (OCC), adds Pantlin.

This enables someone requiring care services from the council to complete all their financial details online just as you would do for your online tax return. It then calculates how much you will have to contribute to the cost of your care package.

Immediate calculations? Good. Efficiency on resources? Good. Key interpersonal dialogue at such a difficult time? Bad. Very bad.

A somewhat similar example is a tool that enables people to assess whether they are eligible for a deferred payment agreement and if so, how much they would have to pay.

More problematic are online self-assessments of needs since this is a more subjective process benefiting from professional input, the author writes.

He points out “multiple councils are implementing online self-referral or screening tools.” These can signpost members of the public to a wide variety of services depending on their situation if their needs are not likely to meet eligibility thresholds.

But none of these apps are downloadable from an apps store. Rather, they tend to be software hosted by, or on behalf of, a local authority, to be accessed from a laptop, tablet or mobile. They can improve council efficiencies and thereby provide the same or better service to more people at reduced cost – assuming that councils can encourage citizens to “channel shift” to online options.

Developers must assume some digital awareness in their marketplace and efficiencies at a council level do not necessarily result in better care at the sharp end.

Going online needs savvy participators and I don’t believe education levels in the market pool for social care are complete enough to offer this as an entire service option.

There is nothing better that face to face. How many times are we all frustrated by automated call filtering?

Technology might help cut costs, but will never replace the human touch.

 

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Written by debbielq

December 7, 2015 at 9:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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