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People first in Digital

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The Government’s digital aspirations in People at the Heart of Care and Joined up Care: People, Places and Populations recognise the value that technology can bring to enhancing the quality of care through integration of health and social care systems. The vision is built on the pandemic’s acceleration of digital in the sector and positions technology as integral to the future of care.

The journey to ‘be’ digital can feel daunting. Knowing where to start and how to navigate an ever-growing sea of new technology can feel overwhelming. By taking a step back and boiling technology down to its very essence we can make the journey about three simple themes: people, problem solving and positive outcomes. Starting with people and understanding the problems/challenges they face will provide the foundation to knowing how technology can provide the solution.

Digital Social Care and the Care Software Provider Association (CASPA) produced the northstar for digital transformation. It aims to ensure that joining up of health and care systems result in positive outcomes for those in receipt of care and their support teams. This is not only pertinent to Government ambition but instils confidence in a model of supplier and provider working towards the same outcomes. My word count is not big enough to expand on the northstar’s 5 principles (See CASPA’s or Digital Social Care’s websites for full document). Instead, I will focus on one key principle that reinforces people in the design.

Principle one calls for people to be at the heart of systems and processes, with systems designed around those in receipt of care and the staff teams. So, how does this look in practice? Person Centred Software and Nourish recently announced that Registered Managers and non-clinical staff can use their GP Connect integration to access a filtered view of GP system information. Previously, access to this information was only available to authorised clinical staff but now a Registered Manager can access appointment information, GP records and medical notes all in real-time. To get here involved a tireless effort from the Digitising Social Care programme (a joint DHSC and NHS England and Improvement unit within the NHS Transformation Directorate), stakeholders in the sector and software suppliers.

Placing information in the hands of professionals delivering care allows for responsive, duplication-free and safer care. These are common goals for suppliers on the Assured Supplier List, hosted on Digital Social Care, imparting confidence in investing in one of 7 solutions: Person Centred Software, Nourish, CareVision, Eclipse by OLM, iPlanit by Aspirico, Care Control Systems and Pass by EveryLIFE.

Examples across the sector provide valuable lessons learned and best practice. Digital Social Care‘s recent masterclass “Bringing people along with you” showcased Making Space’s inclusive digital strategy: Project Shine. CEO Rachel Peacock details how people are at the centre of this change; placing staff and the people they support as active voices in the transformation. This is framed around outcomes aligned with the organisation’s person-centred values. Solutions are not designed in a silo, opportunities are there for exploration, testing and reviewing with end users.

In 2020/21 the National Care Forum received funding through the NHS Digital Pathfinders Programme to demystify technology in care. The Hubble Project delved into 3 care provider’s tech journeys. Parkhaven Trust’s journey details the transformation at The Beeches, a residential and nursing service for 45 people with dementia in Merseyside. The staff team were integral to designing the right solution. The result is a holistic tech ‘ecosystem’ that improves the quality of life of residents and the staff team.

Acoustic monitoring removed the night staff’s regular physical checks that disturbed residents’ sleep. It uses sensors to monitor sound and alerts when it detects a person needs support. The system, by CLB and supplied by Adaptive IT Solutions, was teamed with a circadian lighting system. Circadian lighting helps people to regulate their sleep pattern by adjusting the colour and intensity of a light source to ‘mimic’ the natural cycle of day and night.

Parkhaven Trust reported that residents’ quality of sleep improved and they became more active during the day. This positively impacted on their motivation to participate in activities and their appetite which increased, as did the effectiveness of medication. The ‘ecosystem’ was completed with Person Centred Software’s digital care management system. This reduced time spent on paperwork, freeing staff so they could provide quality support. The data is turned into information that is used to inform decision making and identify signs of decline or illness.

The future of digital care must be shaped by the people who are directly impacted by it. We must root real experience into digital so that solutions are robustly developed and technology is embraced for its benefits, rather than imposed.

Adam Hunt – Digital Transformation Lead, National Care Forum

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