I was reminded of this when reading over 65 papers produced by more than 30 organisations exploring ageing, innovation, digital technology and access to information and resources. There is so much potential for digital technology to enable people to make new connections, contribute to person-centred support, develop community networks and new models of care so an obvious question is what is stopping more widespread adoption?
There is no shortage of innovations in digital technology and millions of pounds are being spent supporting further developments. It is less clear about the application, impact and usage of these innovations. One problem is the limited awareness in the sector and amongst the public about what is available and it’s value. I believe that a big deficit is the lack of a strategic approach to embedding digital technology in the range of options to support people to live more fulfilling lives. Most days I am answering questions about suitable technology products and services.(Sadly this is not a service I am funded to provide so inevitably help is limited by my availability). A major reason why I produced the Click Guide to Digital Technology for Adult Social Care is to forge connections across a seemingly disparate sector which ranges from entrepreneurs, practitioners, commissioners and self funding customers.
I welcome the Ageing and Innovation programme being developed by Nesta with a focus on innovating across our social institutions. The Living Map of Ageing Innovations highlights many interesting innovations.
David Wilcox and his team have been asking challenging questions in the Nominet Trust exploration into using technology later in life “We know lots about innovation, digital tech & #socialcare now who will make it useful?” #dtlater
I recommend reading the inspiring approach developed by the Asset Based Community Development Institute which focus on developing new ideas and strategies which are not needs based and funding-led, but instead use assets more effectively and promote citizen led initiatives. A recent discussion with Cormac Russell a faculty member of the ABCD Institute confirmed the importance of supporting communities to actively engage in a democratic and inclusive way in co-producing stronger, safer and healthier neighbourhoods.
It is definitely worth following the Kings Fund Time to Think Differently programme aimed at stimulating debate about the changes needed for the NHS and social care to meet the challenges of the future. Excellent infographics and an analysis of future trends. #kfthink
These and many other initiatives are ensuring that technology acts as an enabler; exploring how community support can be developed; promoting the user perspective in developing technologies and enabling people to live well with long term conditions. But I am most aware that there is a real need to encourage more strategic thinking which promotes collaboration and connected strategies. It is also essential that we can provide evidence of impact and outcomes in the use of digital technology. There are a lot of sceptics to be convinced! Individuals and organisations need to have confidence in the products and services being provided by digital technology. Whilst many health technologies are possibly over evaluated much of the digital technology being developed for care is under evaluated.
I am concerned about potential duplication with the number of age and innovation projects currently underway. There does seem to be a lack of collaboration amongst organisations, researchers and innovators. How can we encourage the sharing of resources in ways that are discoverable for people requiring care and support, their family and friends and service commissioners?
There are a number of challenges. The care sector is complex and fragmented with a seemingly narrow focus on residential and home care. For me wellbeing comprises all of the services which make each of us feel safe, secure and supported in our community whatever our age or personal circumstances. I really hope the Health and Wellbeing Boards will be a catalyst for connecting key players in local communities which includes social services, health, housing, education, leisure services, the police, economic regeneration, charities and social enterprises , private providers and of course the purchasers and recipients of services.
We need to think differently about how care is provided and there is a critical role for community development in identifying and supporting community builders and connectors who may not be involved with any of the organisations represented on the Health and Wellbeing Boards.
In my paper for the Nominet Trust “Can online innovations enhance social care?” I suggest we explore the potential for developing a Community Wellbeing and Social Technology Innovation Hub. There are many organisations thinking about how care can be delivered more effectively with a focus on the needs and aspirations of the individual requiring support. I believe we need to develop a coherent and independent voice which will facilitate connections and challenge silo thinking amongst the hundreds of potentially competing stakeholders with an interest in this area. Mapping networks and community hubs would be a good start. We also urgently need to create a better shared understanding of technology innovations, the benefits and the limitations.
Just imagine if there was one trusted source where you could access the latest information about care and support innovations, get advice about selecting hardware and choosing apps, find support to get and stay online and understand which organisations are funding, researching and promoting digital technology across the wider care sector.
The way forward?
Convene a roundtable for all the funders of digital technology to explore collaboration, sharing practice and a common approach to evaluating and promoting the outcomes and impacts of their investment.
Provide signposts which enable care recipients, their families and carers to find out what technology products and services are available, both through statutory services or to purchase independently.
Create, promote and participate in events that showcase innovations in care which could be adopted by local authorities, the NHS and housing providers.
Map all of the digital community hubs (however defined) which are available to ensure that people have access to local resources. This would also identify areas where there is currently no support available.
Benchmark levels of awareness about technology innovations across the care sector and work with key players to promote and share the benefits of innovation.
I welcome your thoughts and ideas here or through Twitter @shirleyayres using the hashtag #deukcare