Guest article: Predictive technology – Can it really help reduce care costs?
Helen Dempster, Chief Visionary Officer and Founder of Karantis360, discusses the crucial role that technology has to play in improving meaningful care, freeing up carers from admin work, and reducing care costs, as the social care “funding gap” continues to place significant pressure on the sector.
Unlike NHS healthcare, adult social care in England isn’t free. While some of our loved ones will be eligible for local authority support when they’re older, others won’t qualify, or you may feel they need more care than they’re offered.
It’s no secret that we’re all living longer.
In 10 years, the number of people aged over 85 will have risen by nearly half in England alone, and the population of 65- to 84-year-olds will have increased by more than a quarter over the same period. Therefore, covering the cost of care for our parents or other family members is a growing concern.
While we can’t predict what the future holds, we all want those we love, or even ourselves, to have access to the care we need to live well in later life. Being able to plan ahead for this means getting to grips with typical home care costs and nursing fees, as well as understanding how local authorities assess needs.
As anyone who has had to navigate the social care system will already know, it’s a daunting task and isn’t always straightforward – and things are set to change when a new cap on the cost of care paid over a lifetime comes into force in 2023, in turn, additional hurdles are likely to occur.
The challenge associated with supporting and funding the care for an ageing population continues to escalate. According to Age UK, the numbers of people aged 85+ in England increased by almost a third over the last decade and will more than double over the next two decades.
And these people need care and support; by their late 80s, more than one in three people will have difficulties undertaking five or more tasks of daily living unaided, and between a quarter and a half of the 85+ age group are frail.
With current care services under extraordinary strain, it is estimated that one in eight people are caring for loved ones, many with increasingly complex needs – and this number will continue to increase, creating huge financial and mental stress for often geographically distant family members. Combine that with the implications stress has on family members, quite often their health decreases and the dual cost therefore on the NHS.
Of course, most people don’t want to go into a care home; according to Age UK, 97 percent of the population would like to receive care in their own home. But the funding gap in social care – predicted by the Local Government Association to reach £3.5 billion by 2025 – is creating a devastating knock-on effect on the NHS, with thousands of elderly patients stuck in hospital when they are well enough to go home because there is nobody to look after them.
With the cost of delayed discharges now at almost £290 million per year, the chief executive of the health service, Amanda Pritchard, said that “despite the delays of discharges, the priority is to tackle backlogs that have inevitably built up in the face of rising Covid infections.”
One of the most fundamental roles that technology must play in the future is to enable carers to undertake their primary function – care! This means minimising the admin burden they face and instead, releasing carers to spend more time with VIPs.
This stretched resource is under huge pressure to meet escalating care needs, and yet carers are still compelled to spend upwards of 20 minutes in a 30-minute patient visit filling in manual forms. In addition to the sheer waste of essential, one-to-one patient time, this paper-based information is simply not stored in a way that enables easy sharing with other stakeholders, from other carers to health providers and family members.
Technology has a huge role to play in improving the quality and personal aspect of care – Imagine being armed with real-time data to ask the right questions and ensure the VIP receives the right type of care on your visit. Data can play a huge role in the quality of care; data insights give you historic information which helps but real time data with predictive and preventive capabilities is where we need to be aiming.
With the adoption of easy-to-use apps proven to reduce the administrative time spent by up to 75 percent. Combining a simple user interface with voice recognition, an app not only minimises the admin burden, but also makes it easy for carers to record more personal patient information – such as patient mood, important dates including birthdays or the anniversary of a spouse’s death – which can then support a far more personal care experience.
In addition, this technology ensures the carer’s report is automatically shared not only with the local authorities and/or care agency, but with the individual’s family members, addressing one of the huge causes of stress for those tasked with overseeing the care of a loved one – stress that often leads to time off work or ill health.
In this way, the traditional challenges of information sharing between agencies can be overcome and ensure the most up-to-date medical and personal facts are always available to those who need them.
If these innovative solutions are combined with IoT-based sensors, the care ecosystem can be extended to provide a 24-hour safeguarding service. Using AI-powered tools, carers can track habitual behaviour and spot changes in real time, allowing them to intervene when it is needed – thus alleviating the burden on caregivers and families alike.
Its real-time nature provides a platform for the complete digitisation of healthcare, bringing together local authorities, healthcare providers, NHS Trusts, integrated care systems, general practitioners, registered nurses, and care homes. Real-time, accurate information will not only make the social care model more transparent by including family members but will also enable it to become preventive as opposed to reactive.
And, the smart use of technology means organisations have a chance to rethink the way care is delivered, better matching care to specific patient needs.
Would a patient be better served by shorter daily sessions plus continuous monitoring? With a 24×7 system that monitors and picks up abnormal behaviour, the care ecosystem has a chance to operate in a very different, preventive and personal manner whilst alleviating the pressure of carers to be there physically.
From releasing beds to the pressure on carers and the extended family, it’s time to tackle the social care ecosystem in its entirety. We cannot keep using the NHS as an expensive care home.
Technology is now advanced, user friendly and cost effective enough to make a real difference. People want to stay in their own home and it is widely believed they are healthier and happier in that familiar environment. By leveraging technology, carers are equipped to provide an increasingly personalised care experience and minimise the administrative burden; while family members are relieved to have immediate information on their loved one’s health and well-being.
And, the technology makes financial sense: for local authorities, enabling just a handful of individuals to remain safely and happily at home, rather than in a care facility, justifies the investment in new technology; while for the NHS, the ability to address bed availability will unleash vast resources.
What is truly exciting is that this is just the start; from IoT to AI we now have the chance to better understand patient activity, to intervene early, even predict potential problems, to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and allow more patients to stay safely at home for longer.