By Jonathan Papworth, Co-founder and director of Person Centred Software
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted at senior levels in government that social care is far more important than the focus it has been given in the past. This has resulted in a focus on Joined Up Care – so that all the people involved in the care for individuals have access to the same information about the needs for the individual.
Part of this focus is the expectation that social care providers have the systems and certification in place to access medical information held by GP and Hospital systems, and the new normal can be summarised quite simply by social care providers using Digital Care Software; and meeting the standard defined by the Data Security and Protection Toolkit. These will not be optional; they will be the new normal that is expected. Insufficient adoption of digital care software in the past has been recognised as contributing to the impact on social care of coronavirus, and contributed to the government having no visibility of this impact until it was too late. Many lives were lost because the government didn’t have access to the information it needed, and this was unacceptable. Care providers have recently been more open to adopting digital care software, and this opens up new opportunities to benefit social care and beyond.
One of the biggest changes that is likely to happen as we recover from this pandemic is that social care providers will be recognised better for the role they perform. The more social care and health care works together, the more valuable social care will be seen. The NHS is more involved with social care than ever before, and with Joined Up Care then this is a change that won’t be undone. Given the historic standing of social care relative to health care, this change can only be good for the industry, and whilst any change is seen by some people as detrimental, the benefits are likely to help far more than they hurt. A fully Joined Up, digitally interoperable, health and social care system will enable transition between hospital and care home to be much more seamless. The financial and care benefits of residential homes compared to hospitals will enable more intermediate care opportunities, which will mean higher occupancy. It is likely that the process of hospitals trying to find empty beds to discharge people into will become obsolete as the two sectors work towards a common objective.
Whilst digital care systems are necessary for interoperability, they also open the doors to so much more. Already there are studies using artificial intelligence based on the digital evidence of care that can enable computers to identify people most at risk of falls, or showing symptoms of infection, or measuring the levels of pain people are suffering from. It is likely that artificial intelligence will become widely adopted to help inform and support clinical decision making in social care settings. Social care is leading the way because they collect more information about each person in care than any other setting.
Digital care systems also enable automated sharing of information, but whilst many systems currently exist to provide families access to their loved one’s care, this has not been universally adopted by care providers. The understanding of data security that is necessary for Joined Up Care will help care providers understand what data they can share, and this will open up a world where families are likely to demand access to evidence of care.