Digital Care Futures podcast

A collaboration between the Sustainable Care team and the TSA

The Sustainable Care team have collaborated with partners, the Technology Enabled Care Services Association (TSA), to bring produce a podcast mini-series which focuses on Technology Enabled Care Services (TECS). There are three episodes in the series, each one is co-hosted by CIRCLE’s Dr Kate Hamblin and a member of the TSA team.

1. Commissioning differently: Evolving personalised care with technology

In the first instalment of the Digital Care Futures podcast, Kate Hamblin (University of Sheffield) and Nathan Downing (TSA) spoke to guests from two examples of services which take a proactive and preventative approach.

Learn more about this episode

Podcast guests

Rupert Lawrence, TSA

Carla Dix, Delta Wellbeing Ltd

Key messages

Outcomes first, technology second. Technology is exciting and it can be tempting to be enticed by the latest device, and then look for a problem for it to ‘fix’. Instead commissioners and service providers need an ‘outcomes first’ approach.

…What outcomes? Whose outcomes? Managing risk is important, but people want more than to be safe - they want to live the best lives possible. Local authorities’ wellbeing duty in England and Wales is enshrined in law. Scotland has a personalisation agenda: service users need bespoke and responsive services to help them live well and technology can be part of this. Prevention too is important - technology can be deployed and used in a proactive way.

Technology in care systems is a service and not just ‘kit’. The wraparound support, including monitoring centres and response services, are key but the more embedded and connected with other services TECS are, the better. TECS have the ability to link people with activities and support in their communities that can help them achieve the outcomes that are important to them.

Proactive services require a different funding and commissioning model. A ‘one size fits all’ approach of commissioning and purchasing technology in bulk is not aligned with a personalised approached. A proactive approach with wellbeing as its ethos requires a dialogue with those needing support to create a bespoke service.

2. Start-ups and innovators

In this episode Kate Hamblin (University of Sheffield) and Eve Solomon (TSA) spoke to guests from three very different start-ups, all using technologies to facilitate and support care, to explore some of the challenges and opportunities they had encountered.

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Podcast guests

Darren Crombie, Bridgit Care

Hector Alexander, Yokeru

Neil Eastwood, Care Friends

Key messages

Understand the sector and your market. It’s a confusing marketplace to navigate and many start-ups are driven by an innovator who has been frustrated by their own experience of a care system which is fragmented and in crisis. An understanding of how the sector works and the other products and services start-ups are competing with is crucial.

Start-ups need a clear story of what they do and how their product or services can enhance care. They need to talk the language of whoever their customers are - commissioners, self-funders, care providers - and put themselves in their shoes to tailor messages. The market is crowded, so innovators need to clearly demonstrate what sets them apart.

Be focused and niche. Products and services focused on specific issues are easier for people to understand, to get funding for and demonstrate outcomes. Once you have momentum, you can start to expand to other areas and markets.

Consider co-design/production in early stage development. Co-production and design can help to ensure devices and systems are as user-friendly as possible. Start-ups can endeavour to make systems ‘frictionless’ but also should take a broad approach to include everyone who will interact with the product, system or service - ‘end users’ are only one piece of the puzzle.

It’s important to be able to demonstrate quality and outcomes. Start-ups should consider these issues from the outset, and that different audiences might need different types of evidence or outcomes: ‘return on investment’ for commissioners whereas carers and people who use services might want evidence of improved quality of life.

Commissioners and customers also want to know if the product or service is safe for all users. Start-ups should consider embedding their product or service in a quality framework from the outset- this can build trust and confidence.

3. The digital shift and connectivity

In the final episode of the Sustainable Care and TSA Digital Care Futures podcast, Kate Hamblin (University of Sheffield) and Tim Mulrey (TSA) spoke to guests from two local authorities that had explored how to promote digital connectivity and inclusion, and the implications for the ways they were using technology in adult social care.

Learn more about this episode

Podcast guests

Ann Williams, Commissioner and Contract Manager, Liverpool City Council

Geoff Connell, Director of IMT and Chief Digital Officer, Norfolk County Council

Sarah Rank, Head of Business and Technology for Adult Social Services, Norfolk County Council

James Bullion, Executive Director of Adult Social Services, Norfolk County Council

Key messages

The digital switchover is an opportunity to redesign and rethink services, and connectivity is a key part of that puzzle. Some areas will face greater challenges in deploying digital TECS than others, and creating networks and infrastructure can be enablers to using technology in adult social care, but will also have wider implications for digital inclusion.

Partnership and collaborative working are key - across different parts of both the public and commercial sector, including the secure sharing and pooling of data. Norfolk County Council for example were working with mobile network operators to share access to tall buildings, to facilitate the creation of a digital infrastructure.

Build a movement for change. reform is on the horizon for adult social care, and technology will be part of that. Local authorities together can come to together to consider, as James Bullion argued “what framework of expectations can set right across local authorities, amongst providers” and engage with the debates on reform.

The combined voice of local authorities and care providers is powerful, and rather than waiting for developers to create technology and solutions as Ann Williams from Liverpool City Council noted “the biggest industry in the world is farming and the second biggest industry in the world, it’s health and social care, so the big tech companies, see this a big market. What we need to do is try and get in there quite quickly and tell them what we want, rather than waiting for them to develop things for us to fit around”.

Spread the learning. Other local authorities and providers will be facing similar challenges and may have already tried new initiatives. Sharing both successes and challenges are important.

Think about the whole system. Technology or digital connectivity do not stand alone. “Technology enabled change is comprised of people, process and technology, and sometimes people have a budget for the technology and forget that tech on his own, it doesn’t do anything - it’s just an overhead. So actually, it’s about not underestimating the digital skills development that we needed in creating these initiatives and also change management - helping people to see what’s in it for them and for their customer, why they should they do it.” Geoff Connell, Director of IMT and Chief Digital Officer.

Take your workforce on the journey towards digital. “We’ve got a team who are deeply expert in this assistive technology, but then you need the wider workforce to understand. They’re never going to be expert, but they need to understand enough of it to spot the opportunities and sell the benefits. I think it’s the same digital inclusions as well - I think all our staff are advocates and they’re kind of emissaries if you like for promoting the opportunities that come from being connected and having digital skills. And so it’s making sure that people know enough to be helpful, but recognizing that we can’t all be experts in everything.” Geoff Connell, Director of IMT and Chief Digital Officer.

Achieving sustainability in care systems - the potential of technology

As part of the Sustainable Care programme, we explored the role of technology in the adult social care sector - current policy and practice and where the future may take us.

To understand the current policy context, we conducted a review of evidence (PDF, 1.3MB) about digital technologies and adult social care policy and investment, covering the period 2000-2019, as well as another review of the challenges in using technology in adult social care (PDF, 1.7MB).

We looked at digital technologies to support the

  • planning/organisation of social care

  • delivery of social care through support received by people living at home

  • collection and communication of data collection between different parts of the social care system.

We also conducted stakeholder consultations with people from across the adult social care and TECS sectors, including:

  • CCG, local authority and council commissioners of adult social care and technology-enabled care services.

  • Care providers and their representative bodies and membership organisations.

  • Technology designers, manufacturers, service providers, ‘brokers’.

  • People who access services and their carers.

We also looked at case studies of local authorities and councils that have been investing in, trialling and implementing technology for adult social care in a variety of ways.

About the TEC Services Association

TSA - The voice of technology enabled care

TSA is the TEC Services Association, the industry and advisory body for technology enabled care services across the UK, working on behalf of and advising organisations including

  • telecare and telehealth service providers

  • suppliers

  • digital health businesses

  • housing associations

  • care providers

  • emergency services

  • academia

  • charities

  • government bodies

  • and health and social care commissioners.

It has more than 350 member organisations and a wide range of stakeholders who it engages with through lobbying, external affairs and engagement activities.

TSA drives the transformation of the TEC sector through strengthening partnerships, data and people, whilst recognising and responding to demand, scope and opportunities in technology enabled care. It also ensures the quality and safety of TEC by setting and developing industry standards and providing independent and trusted audit and certification through TEC Quality and the Quality Standards Framework, a UKAS-accredited scheme specific to the TEC sector.

Visit the TSA website