The Digital Social Care’s Assured Suppliers List (ASL) is a digital marketplace for NHS-accredited solutions to meet the diverse needs of social care providers. In this article, KareInn’s managing director, Kate Colborne-Baber, discusses the importance of the ASL, as residential care providers strive to meet their technology ambitions
Digital solutions will prove vital in helping to improve and futureproof social care services
Q: Why is it so important for social care to embrace digital technologies?
A: It is all about building on the great care that already takes place day to day in our care homes across the country.
Embracing digital tools can offer so much more than time savings and greater efficiency. If done well, they have the potential to enrich care interactions, dramatically transform the quality of care, and improve safety.
When real-time insights are available, for example, care assistants have access to the information they need to make better decisions and provide the best care, at the right time.
Q: What are the barriers to adoption?
A: Social care is definitely moving in the right direction when it comes to using digital adoption, but we still have a long way to go in achieving widespread digitisation.
Only 50% of social care providers have any form of digital care records, and over 60% of care homes are still using internet connections that will not support full digital transformation.
As the latest CQC State of Care report highlights, technology is making inroads into care delivery, but challenges such as lack of funding, particularly for smaller providers, continues to be a major barrier to adoption.
A recent decision by the Government to hold back half of the £500m promised to help plug staff shortages has been met with understandable criticisms by social care directors.
However, the Department of Health and Social Care has unveiled £2billion of grants for the next two years which is, in essence, aimed at further digitising social care and helping to bolster the workforce.
The constant funding juggling act once again reaffirms the importance of technology suppliers providing the best-possible platforms and effective partnerships for care providers, enabling them to meet their digital transformation targets.
However, simply giving money to implement technology is not the full answer.
The funding will only cover the initial fees and implementation so, of course, care providers want to take their time before making a decision about who they partner with for what is going to be a long-term relationship.
The constant funding juggling act once again reaffirms the importance of technology suppliers providing the best-possible platforms and effective partnerships for care providers, enabling them to meet their digital transformation targets
And technology providers need to support the care sector with smarter, collaborative partnerships.
We must ensure that the software care homes implement has the ability to talk to other systems.
We need to offer so much more than simply taking existing paperwork and processes and moving them online, and instead think about what digital tools can bring to the table to elevate care delivery to the next level.
Currently, care homes are not seeing the full extent of the benefits that embracing technology can bring because the focus is often on CQC and compliance and not on, for example, improving care outcomes.
Interoperability is also going to be of paramount importance to prevent duplicate data entry into each separate piece of software.
We need to offer so much more than simply taking existing paperwork and processes and moving them online, and instead think about what digital tools can bring to the table to elevate care delivery to the next level
Q: What are the wider benefits for the industry?
A: According to the CQC, there is a fear that technology could replace personal support.
Its report does, thankfully, note that it has seen technology being used to support staff and improve care delivery, and highlights how electronic recording systems make it easier to access people’s care plans and free up staff time to focus on the people they care for.
But, for many, this fear remains a real threat.
Our digital care planning software was created because we recognised the huge and positive impact the right technology can make to individuals.
Our job is to take the complex and make it incredibly simple, so that we are helping care staff to do a great job, not acting as a barrier between them and the resident.
A thoughtfully-designed system will take this delicate relationship into account.
Ultimately, there is much to be gained for us as an industry.
Our job is to take the complex and make it incredibly simple, so that we are helping care staff to do a great job, not acting as a barrier between them and the resident
One integration saw us reduce night-time falls by 55% and a 20% reduction in hospital admissions. This was possible because of sharing structured data on residents’ night-time wakings, hydration levels, and falls risk assessments and then sending push notifications in real-time to night staff.
These sort of tangible examples just aren’t available on paper!
However, if you apply a digital backbone to a care home’s operations with a care planning system, it will ensure quality standards in compliance and keeps residents and staff safe, informed and happy.
Q: How does the Digital Social Care Assured Supplier List address the challenges to adoption?
A: The Government has set a target that care homes must choose a digital provider to ensure their care planning records are digital by March 2024.
To support this ambition, it is providing grants to care homes if they apply via their local Integrated Care System (ICS) using a supplier that is on the ASL.
ICSs and the ASL are a fantastic resource for care home operators as there are a lot of social care technology options out there and sometimes limited advice is available on how to choose the right solution for an organisation.
We’re aware that it can be difficult for care providers to know which digital tools to buy and the ASL gives customers peace of mind that suppliers have systems, processes, and technology that are credible and sustainable for the long term.
Q: Can you go into more detail on the funding strategy and how candidates become eligible for funding and why they should take this opportunity, and how will ASL support the goals and progression of ICS?
A: The NHS Transformation Directorate’s Digitising Social Care programme’s aim is to increase digitisation within social care.
Alongside supporting the adoption of care technologies, ICS teams are working with local authorities and care providers in their area to develop plans to increase uptake of digital social care records (DSCR).
ICS funding is enabling care homes and technology providers to make revolutionary changes in the way care is recorded and delivered and enabling pilot programmes to provide an evidence base for wider adoption of DSCR, to ensure data is recorded at the point of care and can be shared between care settings.
ICS teams are not taking a one-size-fits-all approach. They are truly trying to identify what the barriers to adoption are within their area and adapting their offering on what they are prepared to fund accordingly.
For example, in some remote areas the quality of wifi connection is the main blocker, so I have seen them offering to cover wifi upgrades as part of the fee.
Others are offering to help homes buy devices or providing additional training to staff to support the implementation and uptake in using new technologies.
This pragmatic approach should be applauded as it continues to show how much ICS teams have listened to the care homes within their area and genuinely want to support them to successfully implement this significant change.
Q: How have technology providers supported the creation of ASL?
A: Each organisation on the ASL is best in class, having undergone a very-detailed due diligence process covering everything from system design, business continuity plans, strict protection of resident data, product features, feedback from existing users, clinical standards met etc.
We welcome that the tech companies with a seat at the table are actively driving transformational change to ensure that the resident stays at the centre of the journey.
The ASL has led the sector to actively talk about increased interoperability and how systems can work together to pass data securely between each other
We are not satisfied with a simple post on a resident’s timeline, we develop richer integrations which overlay data from different data sources to identify true insights.
The ASL has led the sector to actively talk about increased interoperability and how systems can work together to pass data securely between each other; the aim being that by sharing data there will be a sizable improvement in clinical safety standards, standardisation of the language used within each product, a better experience for those experiencing care, as well as opening up the huge possibilities when you start to look at a resident’s data in a holistic way, rather than a series of isolated events.
The ASL is also increasing standardisation, which has two positive impacts. It increases comparability of service offering, and increases the baseline of what good looks like across the sector.
Q: If you had one piece of advice for the social care industry, what would it be?
A: Change, in any walk of life, can be a scary thought, b now is the time to brush aside those fears and the inevitable anxiety associated with the unknown.
The sector is doing everything possible to support those making their first steps along the digital journey and care homes should focus on the amazing opportunities that this change will bring.
Technology will not de-personalise care, it will do quite the opposite.
Used in the right way, technology, and the data generated through its use, can give insights which even the best carer had never thought about.
Highlighting real-time insights, right at the time when they have the greatest impact, results in a situation where the care we give our elderly or vulnerable is truly best in class.
We are here to help care homes discover the art of the possible.