Straight Talk
Abu Omar • Founder • Cura Systems

Abu Omar sets out details of the Surrey Care Association round table discussions on the sector and how the sector needs to go digital.

During my 20 years’ experience in creating and developing software applications, I have seen many organisations that are fearful of technology. The lack of IT education and knowledge seems to scare some industries, and this seems especially so when it comes to social care.

It is no secret that social care has a plethora of needs to address and overcome. We all know that staff recruitment and retention is an issue and the potential detrimental impact of Brexit on this looms large on the horizon. Funding and investment in social care has progressively become an issue meaning employers typically pay little more than the minimum hourly wage at age 25 or over. This can make care workers reluctant to apply for roles.

In January 2017, a McKinsey & Company study found that about 30% of tasks in 60% of occupations could be computerised and, in 2015, the Bank of England’s chief economist said that 15m UK jobs might be taken over by robots. With such statements, it is hardly surprising that some people fear technology.

However, care work is protected to a degree, as no machine can care in quite the same way as a human – but does that make care future-proof? Allied to this is the constant drive for greater productivity. The sector needs to attract and retain the right people.

Technology is now rapidly moving towards Artificial Intelligence (AI) and this will revolutionise the world. Thinking hypothetically about care – AI, for example, could be used to produce predictive analysis to aid falls prevention. It could have a huge impact on care delivery and care management as we know it.

It was this potential impact of technology which I wanted to discuss as part of a round table with Surrey Care Association (SCA). Erica Lockhart, Chief Executive at SCA reached out to senior members who had varying degrees of digital uptake in their organisations across a range of provision: learning disabilities, dementia, homecare, residential and nursing.

When we met, we discussed achievable solutions to the prominent issues facing providers and explored best practice in supporting staff to do what they do best, care.

The discussions took three main routes: the challenges facing care providers today, the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC’s) reaction to care going digital and a fundamental change in provision of care.

Interestingly, the discussions highlighted an inconsistent approach from CQC towards technology. It was widely reported that CQC’s response to the adoption of technology during an inspection is down to the particular inspector’s personal preferences.
It led us to ask whether care providers are ahead of CQC with their thinking and technological evolution. Do perceptions need to be changed across the board?

We also found that in companies where technology is in place, between 5% and 15% of their care staff’s time is apportioned to administrative tasks. Companies not using technology typically spend between 20% and 25% of care staff time chasing paperwork. Surely this is a clear case for reform, if ever there was one.

The support from Erica Lockhart and the round table participants was a helpful starting point, but we need to do more to get everyone on board, working together in an open, honest discussion – governing bodies, public sector, private sector and voluntary sector.

We need to share issues and common problems and how they can be overcome. IT providers need to be open and work together so that the technology that is developed is fit-for-purpose. Universally, we also need to establish a language that is the same across all parts of health and social care and a language the people delivering and receiving care can understand.

To advance health and social care practices, we also need a connected network. All systems across the NHS, pharmaceutical, residential and domiciliary care need to have the capacity to speak to one another and share data as a mandatory requirement.

We cannot afford to rest on our laurels; we need to be transformational. How about using technology to support people to care for themselves?

It’s time to move forward and embrace technology across social care and the wider systems. Technology needs to be three clicks simple.

Abu Omar is Founder of Cura Systems. Email: abu.omar@cura.systems Twitter: @CuraSys

CMM subscribers can sign-in to access the reference mentioned here and read the Surrey Care Association and Cura White Paper. It can also be downloaded at www.surreycare.org.uk/news/white-papers-2017

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