New research has been published revealing the latest data and information on how social care providers have been using technology during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Impact of Technology in Adult Social Care Provider Services report published by Digital Social Care, NHSX and the Institute of Public Care at Oxford Brookes University, highlights the benefits and barriers providers in England have been experiencing when it comes to using technology.
A collaborative 8-week research project was undertaken by the three organisations using data from Digital Social Care’s helpline. Further in-depth interviews were also conducted to better understand the experiences of providers.
The research was undertaken between 20 April and 19 June 2020, at the height of the pandemic. During this time Digital Social Care’s helpline was contacted by 176 people, the majority (55%) were from residential care, with 23% from homecare and the rest from other services such as commissioning organisations, community care and supported living.
The use of technology for social care providers has changed rapidly since the Covid-19 pandemic. Information governance compliance requirements have been temporarily relaxed and a new quick process to give care providers free access to NHSmail and Microsoft Teams has been set up. Free digital tools have also been made available and all care homes have been asked to start using the Capacity Tracker as a priority.
Key findings from the report suggest that:
- video conferencing is being widely used with all providers, with the three main drivers being GPs requiring this for virtual consultations, contact between clients and family, and internal communication between dispersed staff
- using equipment is a challenge for providers with many saying that it’s difficult to navigate the best options to respond to the needs of the people they support, themselves and other parties in the system
- there is a mixed and inconsistent picture on the use of remote monitoring, care management systems and digital solutions, with some providers using a range of digital tools and others who are still very paper-based
- despite over 70% of care home providers in some regions having registered with NHSmail, only two thirds of these are using their accounts
- the Capacity Tracker is being used by nearly all care homes but wasn’t perceived by providers as of a benefit to them.
Confidence with digital skills, lack of strategic technical guidance, data protection and cyber security were all identified by providers as barriers to their uptake of technology.
Fiona Richardson, Assistant Director of the Institute of Public Care at Oxford Brookes University, said: “At this extremely stressful time on the frontline of coronavirus care, we want to help care service providers who are working with new technology, perhaps for the first time.
“The care sector needs support to deliver its essential work and this research could be an important driver in enabling us to harness all of the power that technology and digital innovations offer us.”
Vic Rayner, Executive Director of National Care Forum and Board Member of Digital Social Care, said: “Care providers have rapidly adopted new technologies to adapt ways of working during this difficult period. This research shows the many benefits technology can offer to staff and the people they support. It is vital that we learn from the innovative approaches developed as part of the Covid-19 response.”
James Palmer, Programme Head for Social Care at NHS Digital, said: “Supporting care service providers to become digitally mature has always been important: during the pandemic, it has become essential. I welcome the report and its recommendations, which will be key in helping the sector to reap the benefits of digital tools, so that they can continue providing first-class care to the most vulnerable in our communities.”
The report contains a number of recommendations to ensure the sector’s use of technology grows and details how providers can be supported. To read the full report please visit https://ipc.brookes.ac.uk/publications/Technology_Action_Research.html
Providers are being encouraged to contact Digital Social Care’s helpline if they would like support to use technology or have questions to ask. The helpline is open between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday by calling 0208 133 3430 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org