Last month saw the publication by the Care Quality Commission of its major annual report, the State of Care. This comprehensive and detailed research takes the pulse of the nation’s health and social care sectors, outlining, amongst other things, how services have improved or deteriorated in terms of care quality.
While issuing the usual dire warnings over two sectors at tipping point due to increasing demand, lack of funding and a stretched workforce, this year’s report also takes a look at the challenges the care sector faces in terms of adopting technology.
The report outlines ‘five key barriers’ to this. These are: a lack of funding to invest in technology, particularly for smaller providers; a low level of knowledge and awareness amongst providers and staff; fears of technology replacing personal support; perceptions that people using adult social care are not interested in technology; and concerns about ethical or data protection implications in adopting technology.
That a lack of funding is continuing to hold back care providers from the adoption of potentially lifesaving technologies is a national scandal. The fact that health and social care providers continue to trail miserably behind other sectors in terms of technology adoption is well-documented and needs to be addressed urgently through additional government funding.
Turning to the lack of knowledge of technology amongst staff, the onus is on care providers to take the bull by the horns and ensure all team members are fully trained and on-board with the latest technologies and are confident about using them. Evidence shows that even those care staff who are initially fearful of technology soon become its greatest advocates when they see the benefits it can bring in terms of making their lives easier by enabling faster and more accurate care recording, and freeing them from onerous paperwork.
While there remain justifiable fears that some aspects of technology can replace personal support, such as robotics and artificial intelligence, the evidence proves the contrary: that the vast majority of technologies successfully enhance personal support by giving back carers more time to spend with residents and providing greater resources to detail and meet the needs of each individual.
Moreover, perceptions that service users are not interested or will respond badly to technology are increasingly misplaced as patients and care home residents, including the elderly, come to see access to WiFi and social media as an indispensable part of daily life. Similarly, fears over potential data protection issues with digital technology indicate an alarming lack of awareness of how technology actually makes personal data infinitely more secure than traditional paper keeping methods.
While the CQC is right to share some of the genuine issues blocking the universal adoption of technology in health and social care, the majority of barriers it highlights indicate an alarming and persistently stubborn widespread ignorance about the transformative benefits it can bring. The onus is on the industry, local and national government, and the CQC itself to get the message out there!
By Andrew Mason