Upgrading telecare – avoiding the pitfalls

Technology continues to advance at pace, which as well as offering incredible benefits, of course also provides some challenges. Mobile phones, TVs, laptops and smart devices are regularly superseded by newer models. Likewise, assistive technology, telecare and related apps continue to evolve, and as the UK also moves towards a fully digital communication network, providers have many aspects to consider when looking to upgrade telecare systems.

Zillah Moore, Marketing Director at Tunstall Healthcare offer some pointers:

Plan for tomorrow as well as today

Technology is bound to play a key role in the way we deliver health, housing and social care in coming years, helping us to manage increasing demand and support people in their own homes for longer. However, when seeking to address today’s challenges, we also need to bear in mind longer term strategy; for example, ensuring infrastructure in hard wired schemes can be used to support changing technologies in the future. Telecare should never be a purchase just for today, it should be a key tool in a much longer term approach, with technology embedded into new models of delivering health, housing and social care.

The right response

Telecare and telehealth are moving rapidly from being solely reactive systems to become more proactive and predictive. This data insight can be extremely valuable, but only if there are systems in place to analyse and respond appropriately. For example, the data may suggest that an individual is more likely to fall, but this information is only useful if it is acted upon. As systems become more intelligent, we also need to put in place the right processes and resources to make use of the data they provide.

Keep integration in mind

The pandemic has seen a rapid acceleration in adoption of technology to support the wellbeing of people at a distance. As well as telecare systems, remote patient monitoring, also known as telehealth, has been widely used to provide care and also reduce the need for face to face contact. People with long term conditions, in their own homes, in residential care and extra care environments, have all been recording their vital signs and symptoms during the pandemic. These are then reviewed by a clinician via a portal, who identify where changes can be made to avoid exacerbation or even hospital admission. These kinds of systems can underpin more collaborative working between health and care, often as part of a multi disciplinary team, and represent the future of a true healthcare system.

Outcomes not outputs

It’s important to remember the desired end result, and how we measure it. Technology has immense unrealised potential to deliver upstream benefits; for example, reducing/delaying admission to residential care, avoiding hospital admission/readmission. As Integrated Care Systems are put in place across England, and population health management becomes more of a focus, it’s vital to agree the right entry point into the system for citizens, and to be sure that any technology platforms can support joint working and a holistic approach to meet the needs of the people using it.

Make it personal

Technology is only useful if it’s personal. Oversubscribing can do as much damage as under prescribing. There remains a lack of awareness of the available technologies and equally a lack of confidence in appropriate prescribing. Systems should be codesigned with the people using them, with professionals engaged in any pathway redesign from the outset and service users involved in choices about their care.

You can find out more at tunstall.co.uk