The future of technology within health and social care

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If 2020 has shown us anything, it is that there has never been a greater need for technology-led transformation. Covid-19 has turned the daily rhythms and routines of the world we knew upside down and the impact of the pandemic will be felt for many years to come. Social care, weakened by years of declining real-terms public funding and rising demand, is staring into an abyss of shrinking care capacity and exponentially rising demand, driven by factors such as chronic underfunding and a lack of joined-up thinking.

What does the future look like for health and social care? How will this change the ways in which care is delivered? And, crucially, what impact will this have on patients?

Video technology will remain at the fore

Remote healthcare usage surged during Covid-19. In July, over 50% of medical consultations by GPs were performed via video, rather than face-to-face. This must be continued. Every one of the 307 million GP appointments each year costs around £30 when you include all costs such as property, heating, lighting, security and so on. If clinical appointments are carried out by a GP remotely via video, the number of appointments can increase – you can conduct 10 or so video consultations an hour as opposed to four or five physical ones. The cost of delivering primary care therefore drops substantially.

Care at home will be increasingly displaced by technology

By deploying technology across people’s homes and linking it with the digitised front door, a large proportion of attended care at home can be displaced, making large savings and improving the quality of service delivered.

For example, sensors like oximeters or door contact sensors that trigger an exception when dementia sufferers open doors at unexpected times, can reduce the number of home visits dramatically.

If we displace just 50% of attended care, a local authority with a cohort of 2,500 people in care would save roughly £10m a year. 

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Easing the pressure with virtual care plans

Vulnerable people are alone now more than ever, and health care teams are struggling to keep up with the demand. Technology can help to create and connect support teams whether that be family members, third sector organisations or charitable groups.

Technology can account for a patient’s routine, medication and needs. Plus, it can enable a community of volunteers, family members, friends and neighbours to help with day-to-day care. Therefore, creating a support bubble around at-risk individuals; relieving the pressure on the NHS service. This bubble could consist of 10,000 volunteers or organisations that bring different skills to the table, in addition to any formal care that would still be required.

Investment in remote technology will increase

Central and local government have invested heavily in care, but the current situation demands additional targeted investment in finally integrating health and social care across the UK. There are still significant technology and data challenges to bringing residential and domiciliary care into the 21st century. And there remains basic technology issues that need urgent attention. For example, in 2019, 25% of residential care homes had no connection to the Internet.

Changing the role of contact centres

The well-documented changes to working habits will impact the delivery of social care. Local authority contact centres have typically been reactive, with the onus on the customer to share their challenges and instigate a response. Due to contact centre headcounts being reduced as home working takes over, the focus will be on technology to virtually bring people together. If an issue needs to be raised that’s associated with one part of provisioning or social care, workers need to be able to do so automatically and immediately.

Traditional local authority contact centres who operate an ‘inbound’ contact model must now change to a proactive ‘outbound’ contact model; making video calls to citizens, verifying current situations, using the proactive support bubble and closer integration with primary care.


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Increased implementation of AI and RPA

We are already seeing increased interest in chatbots to manage inbound demand and expect this to accelerate further, supported by more complex Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation led solutions.

It is likely that there is a large amount of pent-up demand for council services – people have held off making requests but as the world returns to normal, they will do so. Therefore, the opportunities to signpost and manage that demand by automation may be required. That’s vital because in ‘new’ care models, local authority resource will be required to manage more outbound contacts and hence reducing standard inbound demand will mitigate any potential resource challenge.

What has been missing when looking at social care in the past is for somebody to sit back and take the holistic view; looking at how existing technologies come together to deliver the outcomes that we need. Get the technology angle right and you can deliver change from a locality perspective, not just with local government but with the involvement of acute and community trusts, CCGs, local authorities and the rest into that integrated care delivery model.

It’s clear that doing nothing is not an option. The pressures on the sector are severe – and have been seriously exacerbated by the pandemic – so now is the time to really bring technology to the fore. 

Learn more about Steve Morgan and Agilisys here: www.agilisys.co.uk

health, MedTech, The future of technology within health and social care

Steve Morgan

Steve Morgan is the Partnership Director at Agilisys. Agilisys enables healthcare, local government and organisations throughout the public sector to become more efficient, provide better patient and citizen outcomes and improve the working lives of thousands of dedicated staff.