Co-producing technology in social care

April 18, 2017

A new report explores co-producing technology in social care and states that care providers must involve the people they support in designing new digital solutions.

The publication from Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) in partnership with the National Care Forum, Co-producing technology: harnessing digital solutions for social care recommends how providers can maximise the benefits of such new approaches and outlines how health and social care providers must collaborate with users of services when designing apps, websites and other digital technologies.

The report is based on a recent workshop which explored how people who use services contribute to technological design and are changing the delivery of social care. It expands on earlier work by VODG, which focused on the benefits of technology in a time of austerity.

Digital solutions are at the heart of the NHS Five Year Forward View and the Local Government Association’s (LGA) vision for technology underlines how information and technology will transform the delivery of health and social care services. Yet there has been little focus on how people supported by social care are actively included in designing such digital developments.

The publication sets out key recommendations to redress this imbalance, including:

  • User engagement must be at the heart of designing successful solutions – it supports ownership and take-up of the final product.
  • Technology is not an add-on, but integral to how providers improve the support and inclusion of people they work with.
  • Organisations do not need to be technologically advanced to create digital solutions.
  • If organisations jointly design and deliver shared approaches, there are potential savings to be realised through collective purchasing power.

The report also includes detailed descriptions of best practice, including:

  • A city-wide perspective from Leeds, where the city council’s ‘smart city’ agenda includes the Care View app, used by people in public-facing jobs to identify households with signs of social isolation.
  • Technology to support integrated health and social care under the vanguard sites developing new models of care to deliver NHS England’s Five Year Forward View. For example, HomeFirst, from East and North Hertfordshire, includes ‘virtual ward’ case management, which identifies people at risk of hospitalisation and triggers appropriate interventions to avoid admission.
  • How one provider, Camphill Village Trust (CVT), has invested in its own social media app, CVT Connect, to support people with learning disabilities to develop online skills, confidence and safety awareness.

Huw John, Chief Executive of CVT, the care provider that created a social media app with people it supports, said, ‘Designing our own digital solution has been a win-win experience. It enables us to use technology to not only enhance how we work with everyone we support and reinforce our person-centred approach, but it means that individuals themselves co-produce innovative new approaches, developing new skills in the process.’

Dr Rhidian Hughes, Chief Executive of VODG, added, ‘Technology is no substitute for face-to-face support, but digital developments have a growing role in the delivery of care and support services. Providers who promote such innovations could also develop stronger relationships with commissioners as a result. What’s more, co-designing new technology with people is an opportunity for individuals to be better connected and exercise more control over their lives.’

Vic Rayner, Executive Director at NCF said, ‘I am really pleased to see this work highlighting the potential for technology to influence and enhance adult social care. For too long as a sector, technology has been viewed as part of a rather uncertain and occasionally unwelcome vision for social care. I think this report shows firmly how it can both contribute to the delivery of existing models of care, but also open up additional possibilities for care which play to the strengths and assets of the individuals using services, as well as enhancing the efficiency of delivery. This report couldn’t be more timely, as we read of the increasing emphasis on technology within Next Steps for the NHS Five Year Forward View. I think it should give us all an impetus to work together, across health and social care, to build a more tech-savvy future.’


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