TEC sector should move towards proactive preventative telecare services, report outlines
The TEC Services Association (TSA) has published a new report that looks at the TEC sector and how it has provided support to the wider health and care system during the early months of the response phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Published in July 2020, the latest TSA Sector Insight Report – ‘From Stabilisation to Innovation: The response and redesign of TEC services during COVID-19’ – explores the findings from a 12-week outreach programme by the TSA to the TEC sector.
Sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the programme saw the association contact 92 percent of all alarm services with offers of support and guidance. The aim was to review how the technology enabled care (TEC) sector has responded to the coronavirus pandemic and provide examples of TEC innovations.
This work will then contribute to the UK Government’s supporting programmes of its Rebuild and Recovery plan for health and social care.
TEC has been crucial during the pandemic to break down social isolation barriers for more vulnerable people in society, who might otherwise be cut off from social contact.
However, noting the significance of preventative TEC in the wider health and care sector, a foreword from TSA President RT Hon. Professor Paul Burstow notes: “Whilst celebrating how TEC has responded to the emergency, we also need to recognise that alarm monitoring services that are purely reactive in their scope offer only part of the solution.
“Effective TEC responses to Covid-19 have adopted increasingly proactive and preventative models of care.”
A recent whitepaper from Alcuris also explored the benefits of using proactive preventative telecare services over traditional reactive services.
It revealed that using preventative telecare saw an increase in early preventative interventions by families, provided reassurance to loved ones and supported better quality care plans in the social care sector.
After outlining the findings, the TSA makes three key recommendations for the TEC sector, which include a phased plan of action that focuses initially on stabilising existing TEC services, and suggesting how the sector can best exploit proactive TEC services to shield the most vulnerable, increase care capacity and improve operating models.
These recommendations hope to ease pressures on health and care provision going forwards.
How TEC sector is responding to COVID-19
According to the TSA, approximately 1.7 million people rely on TEC in the UK, with the sector employing a range of services, devices and apps, such as wellbeing calls, fall detectors and remote health monitoring.
The outreach programme found that over a third of the TEC sector experienced staff shortages during the pandemic, with some response and installation services suspended.
The report also shows that providers were largely bypassed for service delivery to newly isolated and vulnerable people, with a lot of TECS (technology-enabled care services) shifting to easy-to-deploy, low contact and self-install technology options.
NHS and care capacity
Alongside showcasing best practice case studies, the TSA makes various suggestions for the TEC sector to successfully support NHS and care capacity.
The report says that during the coronavirus pandemic, the TEC sector initially had an issue with accessing personal protective equipment (PPE), which resulted in the temporary suspension of a number of responder models. To tackle this, the TSA worked with the UK Government to ensure key worker status for the TEC workforce, which enabled TEC providers to access the necessary PPE to keep services running.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 situation has created demand within the TEC sector for alternative and remote call handling options to reduce risk of virus transmission and keep vulnerable people, as well as staff, safe.
To meet this increasing demand, the TSA recommends that TEC providers review their current systems and plan upgrades, so that they can provide more flexible operational models to elderly and disabled people.
In addition, the report underlined that very few TECS integrate with other health and care services, which results in the TEC and its data being placed in a silo. Therefore, the TSA suggests more integration between TECS and health and social care services for better-coordinated support and to maximise the effectiveness of technology-enabled care.
To further reduce in-person contact, the report adds that TECS should consider easy deployment technology – like self-install personal alarms and apps encouraging self-care – to simplify access to their services and to support speedy hospital discharges.
Importantly, the TSA states that various TEC providers offered more proactive support to existing alarm users during the pandemic. Collectively, these service providers now make thousands of outbound calls every week, providing reassurance and targeted guidance.
This proactive approach prevents people from reaching crisis point, which, in turn, reduces demand on local authorities, emergency services and hospital beds.
The report stresses that there is now a “major opportunity” for TEC providers to offer services to shielding groups in the future.
“TEC providers and commissioners need to embed proactive services in the scope of their care provision, moving beyond reactive alarm response and introducing ‘tiers’ of services with differing intended uses,” the TSA adds.
Sustainable structures for health and social care
To help integrate TEC with health and social care services, and create sustainable, lasting structures, the report also outlines a few helpful recommendations for TEC providers.
According to the TSA, TECS should support health and care services through remote health monitoring, which targets vulnerable people in the community, such as those with lung conditions or at risk of falling. This can include vital signs monitoring and monitoring sleep and mobility behaviour to quickly identify risks.
To support the move towards better integration of TEC with health and social care, the association adds that TECS should adopt new technology and address any resilience issues they might have to reduce further pandemic disruption.
“As social care is reformed, remote support for vulnerable people must be at its heart,” the report emphasises. “We need to lift the TEC sector out of its historic silo and ensure it is fully embedded and integrated within mainstream health and care services.
“Innovation comes when local, well informed services – for instance TEC providers and local authority commissioners – partner with largescale regional or national suppliers to develop a service designed around need rather than existing kit.”
Proposed next steps
From these key findings, the TSA has outlined three proposed next steps for the TEC sector, which are:
- Stabilise TECS – Deliver a range of actions that address resilience issues in current TEC services, to de-risk further pandemic disruption. This will include urgent reviews of business continuity plans, revision of key worker roles and technology infrastructure upgrades.
- Exploit proactive TECS – Select proactive TEC interventions which have shown the greatest impact on health and care outcomes and use these to fast-track specifications and plans for service delivery. Include guidance on new service models and a spectrum of enabling technology, supported by methods for service re-design and workforce development.
- Embed and assure new services – Develop a revised quality assurance framework for TEC that encompasses the new and more innovative service and technology options. The short term focus on emergency measures has pushed quality assurance, governance and regulation to the back of the queue and this must change.
The TSA president concluded: “The capability and scalability of TEC services to deliver far more in terms of proactive outreach and remote health monitoring is within reach, if we can integrate TEC with wider health and care services, supported by the right digital infrastructure.”