Can Technology Enabled Living Save Health and Social Care?

Downward pressure from the Covid19 pandemic coupled with an aging population and high call volumes have led to longer and longer ambulance response times and waits in A&E. Following advice and guidance from the Technology Enabled Care Services Association (TSA), the TEC sector is rising to what seems like an impossible challenge. Clearly, something needs to change and the TEC companies have a responsibility to do everything they can. 

“The industry is still very much in the reactive stage,” says Kristian Knight, the TEC Development Lead at Medequip Connect. The reactive element of traditional telecare will always be important. When local community-based Emergency Responder services respond to non-medical emergencies, pressure is relieved from Ambulance services who can focus on life-threatening calls instead. “But the market is rapidly moving towards more proactive services. We generate Regular Caller reports which enable us to re-assess the needs of Service Users who are experiencing increased Falls and Incidences, as they might require additional support and intervention.” 

React –> Prevent –> Predict 

The advent of digital TEC brings new possibilities and growing interest and innovation within the sector has been described as a landscape of opportunity. “As a service provider, Medequip Connect plan to revolutionise how we deliver care by aggregating health and social care data onto a combined platform,” explains Kristian. This means practitioners would view the Service User as a whole, allowing them to prescribe different levels of care according to their individual needs.  

The market for TEC products is also changing. Innovative lifestyle monitoring systems are at the forefront of innovation. Infra-red motion sensors can learn the Service User’s normal routine, recognise behavioural changes, and send real-time alerts to family members and the wider support network such as social workers or health practitioners; in turn helping to reduce falls, prevent crises before they occur, and delay/avoid escalations in care needs.  

It has already been shown that TEC improves people’s outcomes. Studies have illustrated Service Users’ increased sense of independence from their newfound mobility due to the use of TEC devices, as well as empowered self-management by better understanding their condition, and helping them justify their decisions to seek advice or adjust treatment. Indeed, TEC can increase Service Users’ self-awareness and awareness of their symptoms, encouraging timely intervention and reducing doctor’s visits. This overall feeling of empowerment has also relieved frustrations related to technological features, research suggests. 

“Medequip Connect has always strived to promote people’s independence,” says Kristian, “and this way we could deliver care at a distance.” Ultimately, these new developments pose to bring about a more person-centred, preventative, and predictive care model. However, the transformative power of TEC will only be fully realised when there are both provisions and policy in place to support change. 

TEC is the enabler, not the answer 

It is time to bring the conversation out of the TEC sector and into communities, to Care Commission Groups, to Service Users themselves. TSA, in conjunction with The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), is urging the government to fund and normalise digital health and social care. It’s as much about people as it is about technology and true innovation will only be sustained with strong leadership and collaboration. TEC is the enabler, not the answer. But we can start asking the right questions.

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