News

Digital Transformation in care

Digital Transformation in care - Briefing
Thursday 25th June

Daniel Casson, Care England, Digital Development Executive

Intro
I thought it was time to put forward some general thoughts on digital transformation in care, to set down some of the issues to follow up in future blogs.

To state the obvious, digital transformation has to focus on the issues we need to solve. So what is the main issue? For me it all comes down to data – data to promote better quality of life, data to link systems, data to aid productivity. It then follows naturally that the major factor in the digital transformation of social care will be the push to integrate care and health via digital platforms.

For social care providers this means that any digital transformation should take into account national and local initiatives. As a way into this sort of thinking try:
https://digital.nhs.uk/blog/transformation-blog/2019/so-what-is-a-local-... and
https://www.england.nhs.uk/digitaltechnology/connecteddigitalsystems/hea...

Standards
The work of CASPA in the area of standards is interesting (https://caspa.care/), because they are trying to get the care planning software providers to agree to joint standards and ways of recording data. In the recent crisis, the gaps in data collection between the NHS and care homes has been exposed: there will be huge efforts in the near future to correct this gap, in an effort to join care homes into health systems to ensure that reliable data is collected, disseminated and analysed. There will also need to be work on standardising the way data is collected and the terminology used. In this regard the PRSB is doing some good work in consulting care providers and software providers on recognised standards. The Health Foundation and Future Care Capital have joined to lead some ground-breaking thinking on this area and are taking on board the fact that data collection has to be done by trusted (maybe even neutral) agents.

Remote Monitoring
In the Covid-19 pandemic there has been a clear focus on remote medical monitoring, which will play a major role in the provision of healthcare, and in how health and social care connect. This will mean that any care provider considering employing monitoring tools will need to ensure that they are compatible with systems in place and with local health initiatives. Examples of a few companies in this area are https://www.inhealthcare.co.uk/, http://feebris.com/, https://www.hepro.no/home.html, https://www.allycares.com/ or https://www.thehtn.co.uk/2020/06/12/huma-supports-nhsx-remote-monitoring....

Communications
The recent initiative to give all care homes easy access to NHSmail has been a major step forward. Previously care homes had to complete the Data Security Protection Toolkit (DSPT see https://www.dsptoolkit.nhs.uk/ and https://www.digitalsocialcare.co.uk/data-security-protecting-my-informat...).

During the pandemic, the need to compete the DSPT has been waived to allow mass uptake of the system, which has facilitated secure communication between care homes, hospitals, pharmacies and GPs which has been invaluable. While operating the Digital Social Care Helpline (www.digitalsocialcare.co.uk - help@digitalsocialcare.co.uk - 020 8133 3430 - @DigiSocial) it has been striking that a number of pharmacists and GPs have been contacting us on behalf of care homes to ensure that the homes are connected to NHSmail, because they see it as a necessity.
In order to retain their NHSmail address (xxx@nhs.net) social care operators will, at some point in the near future (earliest Autumn this year), have to complete the DSPT, and it is hoped that it can be made more easily accessible for social care providers. The move to allow care homes proxy access to EMIS to link with GPs is also a great initiative.

The Covid-19 situation has accelerated the move to digital in the way we communicate with our teams and with people we support and their families. I would suggest that staff, families and the people we support and care for will, from now on, expect more sophisticated means of communication and ways to be kept informed and participate in decisions.

Sources of info.
The NHS Digital blog (https://digitalhealth.blog.gov.uk/) is a good place to get info., as is the NHSX website (https://www.nhsx.nhs.uk/).

I would point to my recent articles including https://www.caremanagementmatters.co.uk/feature/a-changing-landscape-for.... The Digital Social Care website (www.digitalsocialcare.co.uk) is a mine of information with good success stories and guidance on issues such as cybersecurity and care. I would also recommend the everyLIFE report (https://www.everylifetechnologies.com/our-products/passsystem/scie/) and the CASPA paper (https://www.carehomeprofessional.com/white-paper-offers-guidance-on-adop...). I would also suggest you look at https://www.orcha.co.uk/, https://techforcare.co.uk/ and look out for Care City (highlighted in the Nuffield Trust) article https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/public/news-item/friday-faqs-john-craig.

Digital Transformation Strategy
When speaking to social care organisations they invariably say that their digital strategy has to focus on their financial sustainability and further improvement of the care they are providing: the new tech they employ needs to allow them to be reactive, proactive and predictive. They talk about the 3 or 4 areas in which digital tech would contribute most significantly to productivity and care. These areas inevitably include:
a. Falls prevention;
b. Nutrition/hydration;
c. Vital signs and out-of-the ordinary monitoring; and
d. Recruitment and retention.

When I talk about a digital transformation, I advise people to focus on various the areas above and have a structure in mind which gives them 2 things:
1. The Gift of Time of time to care. i.e. using digital to help give staff teams more time to care; and
2. Access to data on people which can be accessed quickly, reliably and from various vantage points.
This will allow them to prioritise safety and maybe even allow people a greater degree of self-management of their care and their health needs.

Buy-in
Buy-in and real promotion by the leadership team is essential in order to cascade enthusiasm for digital through an organisation. This means the leadership team not just promoting digital transformation but being willing to promote the resources (physical, human, intangible and financial (PHIF)) to making it happen. This will require clear communication of goals and intentions in promoting digital, and a programme to ensure people are empowered to take on and be creative with the digital tools they could have at their disposal.

The ROI/Value Creation issue
I was on a webinar (24 June – The Care Home of the Future, set up by Ascom UK, Person Centred Software, ATLAS eMAR and PainChek) and Ernie Graham of Graham Care went straight to the nub of this issue. He pointed out that the real question to ask is not what value digital transformation will create but what will be the opportunity cost if we don’t adopt digital. He said that i) in the short term digital transformation will be a negative on the P&L and ii) the lasting benefits will be improved outcomes for the people we support and care for, business efficiency and more dynamic organisations.

Digital Transformation: a nice to have or a necessity
Digital transformation in not just to give you a competitive advantage, it will be a necessity, as consumers of care become more sophisticated and increasingly expect digital solutions. However far digital can go, care remains based on human touch and relationships. If deployed correctly, digital solutions should allow us to deepen the relations of staff teams with the people we are aiming to support, so that we can provide even better care for those people. I have heard it said that the one thing we cannot digitise is relationships, however I do think that even in this area we can facilitate relationships with the use of digital technology.