Technology is impacting every area of our lives. It’s changing how we shop, the way we watch television and how we manage our finances. It’s also affecting how we run our businesses. Society has adopted technologies that help it carry out everyday tasks more efficiently and cost-effectively. Healthcare, especially elderly care, must embrace this change too.
The pace of change
The speed of technological change is accelerating and we’re at the start of a revolution where smart technology, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence will enter the mainstream. Without realising it, these technologies are part of our everyday lives today. Air traffic control systems are run by AI. Smartphones are pieces of smart technology. Change is already here.
Slowly but surely, technology is causing a revolution in elderly care too, offering higher quality and lower cost care. Crucially, technology is also offering elderly people the chance to live independently and healthily in their homes for longer.
By embracing technology, care agencies can offer higher levels of preventive and personalised care to a greater number of patients.
A ticking time bomb
As we know, shifting demographics mean we are going to have to provide care for a greater portion of society than ever. With less public funds available, we’re facing a societal crisis that amounts to a ticking time bomb.
This week, the UK’s 2018 budget promised an extra £650 million for social care. Following years of austerity, things are moving in the right direction once again. However, it is far from enough and some labelled the budget merely ‘sticking plaster’ for elderly care needs. Health Secretary Matt Hancock is well-intentioned, but it will be up to forward-thinking care agencies and care professionals to readdress an imbalance that, whilst a problem, could be considered an opportunity. Care agencies who adapt will thrive.
Technology is here to help
In the absence of sufficient governmental support at the present time, care service providers will have to find innovative solutions. Technology can help in three key ways.
Firstly, technology gives older people independence. Prevention is, of course, better than cure and by aggregating data from carer reports and smart home devices, care agencies can access an accurate, up-to-date picture of a patients’ health. This gives families, care professionals and care agencies the information they need to keep patients healthier for longer in their own home. Technology, such as apps that connect patients with their families, can reassure families that their loved ones are safe and well and means agencies and carers can focus on doing what they do best - providing preventative and personal care.
Secondly, technology improves real-time communication. The digitisation of this process and a move towards ‘going paperless’ shortens the time it takes for care professionals to complete reporting tasks and facilitates seamless information sharing between families, professionals and agencies. It also allows instant understanding of how the care is being delivered and when issues arise they can be flagged immediately by the care staff which ensure swiftly actions from the care manager.
Heightened transparency and increased speed of communication will lead to care plans being arranged more efficiently, which will promote preventative care.
Finally, technology makes the delivery of high-quality, person-centred care possible for a greater number of patients. Applications and systems - like home monitoring tools and care planning and management software - allow care agencies to ensure that their care professionals’ limited, valuable time is focused on high-value tasks, putting their expertise and skills to better use. In time, this will allow care agencies to deliver a higher level of care to more patients at a lower cost.
These benefits will help to prevent expensive spells in hospitals and care homes for the elderly. This will free the NHS from a burden that should make funds flow back in the direction of elderly care once again, which will help care agencies deliver the highest possible level of care.
It’s interesting to note that Matt Hancock used to work in technology and, as Health Secretary, he plans to bring his, “knowledge and experience and unsurpassable enthusiasm for tech to Britain’s health and social care system.”
Clearly, the benefits of technology are being promised from the top down and, when it comes to caring for the elderly, that impact has huge potential. By promoting independence amongst the elderly and empowering care professionals, we can allow care agency owners the chance to build sustainable organisations that provide a high-quality level of care for their patients.
At Birdie, we believe in the potential of technology. Our care technology platform helps care agencies to offer first-class, person-centred care at lower cost. We empower care agency owners to run better businesses that offer higher quality care to a greater number of patients.