The Experts’ Opinion: How to Diversify Technology Enabled Care Solutions 

Alex Fulcher | 12 Jun, 2024 |

As the demand for personalised and effective technology enabled care solutions continues to rise, it is crucial to embrace an approach that prioritises choice, flexibility, and inclusivity. The recent webinar hosted by 2iC Care, "Diversifying Technology Enabled Care for the Future," delved into this crucial topic, offering insights and perspectives from industry experts. 


Watch the webinar here!


Identifying the Underserved 


One of the key revelations from the webinar was the audience poll, which identified individuals with mental health needs and learning disabilities as the top groups currently underserved by TEC solutions. This finding serves as a sobering reminder of the need to broaden the reach and accessibility of technology enabled care. As Claire Collett, Technology Enabled Care Occupational Therapist, noted, "particularly mental health [has] been nationally underfunded for many years now I think mental health needs is probably where I know that there is a lack of those individuals using technology to its advantage for them." 

Regarding learning disabilities Debra Edwards, Co-production Champion, added that whilst she was training as a midwife her dyslexia made things harder, “you're not aware of the amount of software and things out there that could help you and aid you in your everyday life with using technology. You know, you have to be diagnosed and directed. It's not so easily found. So then a lot of people who are struggling with one form of disability or the other, especially on learning disabilities, are missing out so much and they're literally being left behind.” 


Cultural and Infrastructural Challenges   


Panellists Mark Smith, 2iC-Care’s Business Development Director, Claire Collett, and Debra Edwards offered insightful perspectives on the barriers impeding the widespread adoption of TEC for these underserved groups. Mark emphasised the importance of moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach, recognising that traditional solutions like pull cords or fall buttons may not resonate with younger individuals accustomed to modern technology. As he stated:

"What we're trying to do is shoehorn the existing technology service that was already badged as an old person's service into that property." 

Claire highlighted the cultural challenges within the workforce, citing concerns about job loss and the allocation of funds, particularly in rural areas where infrastructure, connectivity and access to digital technologies can be limited. This is exactly why NRS Healthcare use Andi to keep North Yorkshire connected. "Often one of the barriers is, is this going to take away my job if someone can do more without me anymore. But I've always argued the fact that there's a shortage quite a lot of the time in most areas around care provision and technology is never going to take away their job," she explained. 

Debra, a co-production champion, emphasised the critical role of open communication and active listening in the co-production process. "Full co-production is you go in, you sit down, you have a conversation, you know, tell me about your life, what do you like?" she asserted, stressing the importance of respecting individual preferences, recognising that some may not desire technology-based solutions. "You have some people who just don't want to use technology. And you have to respect that as well," she added. 


Empowerment through Personalisation and Choice 


A recurring theme throughout the webinar was the need for personalisation and choice in TEC solutions. As Mark aptly stated, "It's about enabling, not replacing jobs or cognitive abilities." Claire echoed this sentiment, emphasising the fine line between promoting independence and fostering dependence. "Again, it's really unique about, each person's story is unique really," she affirmed. 


Debra highlighted the importance of open conversations to truly understand an individual's needs and aspirations. "It's like the piece of work I did when I got involved with TAPPI, different people's needs. As I said with myself, what I needed most from technology was something to be able to shut my curtain in my bedroom to empower me," she shared. 


Paving the Way for Choice 


The panellists identified several factors limiting the freedom of choice in technology enabled care solutions, including technical capabilities, rigid assessments, and a lack of awareness among care providers about available options. 


Mark pointed out the historic limitations of technology enabled care services, stating, "what you generally got is if you went into [care] accommodation, everybody got exactly the same because it was in the fabrics of the building. That was it." He emphasised the need to move towards a more outcome-driven approach, tailored to individual needs and circumstances. 


Interoperability: The Glue that Holds it Together   


Interoperability emerged as a critical component in enabling personalised and flexible TEC solutions. Claire highlighted the challenges posed by outdated systems from the 1960s that are incompatible with modern technologies, often resulting in additional costs for service users. "And I know that you know there's a lot of older developments out there for the housing providers, people are renting from housing provider and we're talking products from the 60s that just aren't compatible now," she explained. 


Mark advocated for centralised data repositories and platforms that facilitate interoperability, allowing for seamless integration of various technologies and peripherals from multiple manufacturers.

"Interoperability is going to be absolutely key. Absolutely. You need a centralised data suppository to be able to pull that information and actually deliver it in such a way that is meaningful."

This approach not only enables personalisation but also streamlines training, as care providers need only familiarise themselves with a single, adaptable system. 


Self-Assessment: Empowering Service Users 


The concept of self-assessment that Claire, raised resonated strongly with the panel, particularly with Debra, who envisioned a system where service users could provide insights into their hobbies, preferences, and aspirations, enabling care providers to suggest tailored TEC solutions that enhance their quality of life. "You're enabling, you're empowering the person, you're giving them back things that they enjoy," she explained. 


Claire highlighted the potential benefits of self-assessment forms and technology assistance grants, aligning with the ethos of choice and direct payments. "If we only had a box with a red button, but somebody said, oh, I'd really like something else that would do that, but I want it to look better or to open up more opportunities, then that funding for that button and box could be given to that individual and they can go and seek what they would like to purchase and use," she said. 


Key Takeaways 


- Comprehensive training for commissioners, carers, and service users is essential to foster a culture of inclusivity and promote the effective utilisation of TEC solutions across diverse groups. 

- Interoperable, flexible technology that integrates a wide range of care peripherals from multiple manufacturers is crucial for delivering personalised care experiences. 

- Ensuring service users have a choice in their care solutions is paramount, and initiatives like self-assessment and direct payments can empower individuals to make informed decisions that align with their needs and lifestyles. Open communication, active listening, and co-production are vital to understanding and meeting the unique needs of service users, empowering them to live their lives to the fullest. 


As the webinar's discussions demonstrated, diversifying technology enabled care requires a multifaceted approach that prioritises open communication, personalisation, and the active involvement of service users in shaping their care experiences. By embracing interoperability, fostering a culture of choice, and breaking down barriers to accessibility, the TEC industry can pave the way for a future where no one is left behind, and every individual's unique needs are met with compassion, dignity, and empowerment. 

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