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Digital Transformation in Care _ A leap of faith or a considered agent for value creation?

Social Care Digital Transformation Blog 3 June 2020
Daniel Casson Care England Digital Development Executive

To embrace the power of digital transformation in care needs a blind leap of faith … or does it?

For many years now it has been clear that digital innovation creates value in two main areas, as Martin Green CEO of Care England says:
“technology can improve the quality of life and outcomes for people and improve productivity … [It] can be used to create a real-time picture of service quality so that [there is] a … clear audit trail on … quality outcomes …”.
It has long been my reasoning that the value of digital transformation in care is that it creates value in the quality of people’s lives and in the productivity of care organisations (the bottom line). In a recent conversation with care software providers they also include the fact that reduction of risk is a major plus of digital transformation, because it is the key to the financial and operational sustainability of care organisations.

Those same software providers listed the real benefits stated by care providers in the use of electronic planning software. I see it as my role and the role of fellow social care digital transformation advocates to:
• translate those benefits into easily realisable marketable statements;
• encourage the people holding the purse strings to release the funding to upgrade digital solutions; and
• help create the ecosystem for digital solutions to thrive.

The recent Care England Digital Webinar was focussed on Value creation. James Barlow of Imperial College London (https://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/j.barlow) took us on a journey starting in 1879 with a quotation from The Lancet . A doctor is quoted as saying to a grandmother, “Lift the child to the telephone, and let me hear it cough”. After hearing the cough, he says: “That is not croup” and advises the family to settle down for a quiet night. Wow … technology 140 years ago creating value in productivity and in quality of life. Professor Barlow’s view on the history of assistive tools in health and care is that they were originally created for institutions to use with people, and, now, in the 21st Century, digital solutions are focussed around the person. The result is that organisations which are truly client-focused are now taking the lead.

For digital transformation to create value, there needs to be a programme of change: change in leadership style, change in behaviour, change in training patterns and change in organisational expectation. The real driver for change is, however, not internal … it is from clients and other stakeholders demanding better access to service, to data and to interconnectedness with other systems: these are the drivers of change to promote digital transformation. The old business models such as Porter’s five forces are still relevant in any change scenario: as barriers to entry fall (i.e. tech becomes cheaper and more accessible), the threat of being usurped by more tech savvy companies will mean that customers (be they private individuals or state organisations) will force the pace of change.

In the same webinar Graham Brittain (https://www.linkedin.com/in/graham-brittain-mba-780b4a25/) expounded on his theory that new software in care settings has the unexpected benefit of reinforcing staff engagement and commitment. It helps save time for greater substantive interaction with the people being cared for and supported, and better data and more timely access to data means greater accountability and enhanced relations with the person and their family. To realise these benefits requires real digital leadership in our sector.

To create value by digital transformation, various people/agents involved in the care continuum have a role:
• The state: Needs to provide the ecosystem into which care tools and care digital solutions can fit. It needs to prime the infrastructure to encourage digital transformation;
• The individual: People should expect more connectedness and better access to data and tools to improve care outcomes;
• Organisations: Need to transform themselves digitally to promote inclusion and improved quality. They need to engage staff, clients, families and state authorities in the journey to greater value; and
• Innovators: Need to be creating tools which add value, fit into the care ecosystem, and can be easily integrated with other solutions.

Care England supports the setting aside of specific funding for innovative technology solutions in care. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen NHSX take a lead role in encouraging innovation (see for example https://www.nhsx.nhs.uk/blogs/supporting-people-who-are-vulnerable-isola... and https://digitalhealth.london/18-winners-of-techforce19-challenge-announced/). Its role must now be to work with providers of care to incentivise, promote and fund greater take up of digital solutions to create value for us all.