In the second of our articles on health and social care and technology, we‘re going to look at the advantages of using technology, as well as a case study of an innovative partnership between Calderdale Council and Idox.
The ‘Digital working, learning and information sharing’ strategy, developed in partnership with the adult social care sector, identifies three areas where technology would bring a number of benefits:
- working directly with those who need care and their carers;
- supporting the learning and professional development of staff;
- organisational business support and information management systems.
The use of electronic notes, for instance, would be a simple step that would have a significant impact on homecare workers (highlighted in section 5 of the Burstow Commission report on the future of the home care workforce). At the moment, care workers usually make handwritten notes and leave them in a book in someone’s home. However, if care workers moved from handwritten notes to electronic notes, information could be shared more easily. This would mean that care managers and families would be able to monitor an individual’s care and conditions remotely.
Organisations have also seen the advantage of incorporating e-learning into staff development. The Skills for Care ‘Digital capabilities in social care’ report found that 95% of organisations used e-learning courses to support staff development, particularly in administration-related areas, such as health and safety and fire training. For instance, instead of sending staff on full day training sessions, e-learning courses can be completed by staff in an hour, offering greater efficiency and flexibility.
However, the report also highlighted that social care related e-learning courses, which looked at issues such as dignity and respect, were of ‘variable quality’ and not able to compete with the experience of face-to-face and group learning. Therefore, it’s possible that an opportunity is being missed by education and training providers, as technology should be able to provide better solutions than the simple tick box exercises described in the report.
Interestingly, the report also suggests this might not be too far off, as one of the organisations revealed that they were looking at more interactive options and were currently working on a research project with a university in Greece, which focused on the idea of ‘gamification’.
One local authority that’s certainly tried to capitalise on the benefits of technology is Calderdale Council. The council has developed an innovative case management tool to support their day-to-day work, in areas such as child protection, looked after children, and fostering and adopting. Parveen Akhtar, Early Intervention Service Manager, at Calderdale Council explains that:
“The Child Social Care solution was created in partnership with schools, health and police. Providing an intuitive system to meet the requirements of front line social care practitioners, it enhances our ability to provide better services to families within our community.”
The Child Social Care solution creates a single view of a child through combining information from several sources into one record. This means that practitioners are able to create, access and share information easily and securely, supporting informed decisions and putting in place appropriate support for children and their families.
The system has a number of benefits and features, including:
- improving multi-agency communication and response;
- reducing the amount of time taken by practitioners to locate another agency involved in a child’s case;
- enabling practitioners to access information remotely;
- offering comprehensive performance and reporting tools for providing vital statistics;
- providing the ability to monitor and track the progress that children and families are making.
Calderdale have teamed up with Idox, a specialist in providing technology, content and funding solutions to government, and are now offering their system to other local authorities. The partnership has already proven to be successful, with Calderdale and Idox providing their solution to councils in the Isles of Scilly and Leeds.
Over the coming years, health and social care will be facing ever greater demands with tighter budgets. For this reason, technology is going to be essential to support better outcomes and more efficient services. It is therefore important that a strategic approach is taken concerning information technology, and that organisations look at its long term benefits, rather than the short term savings from cuts to investment.
The first article on health and social care and technology, “What’s preventing health and social care from going digital?”, can be found here.
By Steven McGinty, Idox