Kelly Hudson (pictured below), chief strategy officer at Lilli, explains why effective collaboration between social care organisations and technology providers can make a significant difference in helping to support the adoption and long-term success of new data-driven or technological approaches
Technology-enabled care will be vital to delivering improvements to adult health and social care services, says Kelly Hudson of Lilli
Adult health and social care in the UK is standing at a crossroads.
With the Government’s recent integration white paper setting out plans for shared care records for all citizens by 2024; the sector seems primed to capitalise on its recent rapid progress towards technology-enabled care.
Furthermore, the ongoing digital transition post-COVID has brought health and care services closer together than ever before.
However, barriers still remain when implementing new technology solutions, and despite the impressive progress made in the last few years, successful digital transformation is not yet a given.
So, faced with a plethora of different innovative solutions to choose from – all promising different benefits and outcomes – where should leaders start in their journey to implement new technology?
For true lasting success, the key is in an outcomes-first mindset.
Rather than approaching tech implementation as a ‘quick fix’ to ongoing problems, such as resourcing; decision makers should ask themselves what exactly it is they are trying to achieve and how technology can offer the clearest path to achieving those outcomes.
Rather than approaching tech implementation as a ‘quick fix’ to ongoing problems, such as resourcing; decision makers should ask themselves what exactly it is they are trying to achieve and how technology can offer the clearest path to achieving those outcomes
For example, what improvements need to be made in care outcomes? Where are vulnerable individuals falling through the gaps in the current system? Where should efficiency be increased? And how can technology better serve the needs of communities?
With a thorough understanding of outcomes and objectives, decision makers can confidently narrow down the exact solution required and embark on change programmes, implement pilot projects, and validate and scale up new approaches.
While the pandemic compounded many of the existing challenges facing the health and social care sector, it also catalysed the move towards more-data-driven, digital approaches.
More widely, society has now seen an unprecedented shift towards the provision of care and information through digital means, and as such consumer confidence and expectations when it comes to technology has come on in leaps and bounds.
Despite these positive steps forward, it’s often the case that a cultural shift is required to secure wider buy-in for new technology.
A joint think piece report by Lilli and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) found that technology is still often approached as a separate add-on, driven by a select group of stakeholders, meaning that organisations miss opportunities to successfully evaluate and support these new tools more widely during implementation.
This can result in digital solutions failing to be fully integrated within broader processes, which can negatively impact adoption rates moving forward.
Qualitative examples of how the right technology solutions can transform service delivery are certainly effective – but narratives must be underpinned by training and support
Therefore, digital leadership should be embedded into the skill set of health and social care decision makers.
A recent review by NHSX outlines the need for the sector to build more-confident digital leadership, including developing skills in change and project management, so that organisations are better placed to adopt technology and support its use by staff. This strong leadership will help to alleviate the anxieties felt by some staff and service users around greater use of technology.
This next step goes hand in hand with the previous points.
Ultimately, to secure buy-in across the board – from decision makers to frontline users – the outcomes of digital integration must be visible to all.
Technology solutions should be introduced as something that meets a specific need or challenge, so that staff have a compelling reason to embrace it.
Concrete, real-life examples of how digital solutions can change models of care, improve people’s lives, and potentially ease burdens on staff, are particularly effective in convincing stakeholders of the value of technology.
For example, Lilli recently collaborated with Dorset Council to roll out a pilot project using machine learning (ML) technology to monitor recently-discharged patients in their own homes and pro-actively identify early signs of deterioration.
Initially, securing staff engagement with the technology was a challenge due to a lack of extensive quantitative data to fully demonstrate the solution’s benefits. But a powerful narrative quickly began unfolding as the pilot progressed and staff and patients saw the visible value of the technology through the insights it provided, ensuring that needs were met, time and costs were saved, and better, more-preventative care was delivered.
As the sector continues to adjust to the post-COVID landscape, health and social care leaders have a golden opportunity to accelerate the uptake of long-term, sustainable technology solutions in the months and years ahead
Qualitative examples of how the right technology solutions can transform service delivery are certainly effective – but narratives must be underpinned by training and support that foregrounds the value of data.
Boosting staff confidence by shaping them into tech champions helps to successfully embed new approaches, ensuring a greater shared understanding of how important technology is in improving models of care and enhancing the lives of citizens.
It is clear to see that greater communication and collaboration is crucial in facilitating a cultural shift towards technology-driven approaches among the wider workforce.
But this approach extends beyond the health and social care sector: open conversations with tech providers about interoperability are needed to maximise the functionality of systems and deliver the best-possible outcomes.
It is no longer enough for interoperability to be treated as a ‘nice to have’. All technology solutions must be interoperable with existing systems so that staff can easily access new digital systems and successfully embed them into their practice.
Fortunately, the path to interoperability is more transparent than before. As suppliers become increasingly flexible about sharing their protocols, health and social care leaders should capitalise on collaboration and joint-working opportunities, working in tandem with suppliers to shape the design of digitalised service provision.
As the sector continues to adjust to the post-COVID landscape, health and social care leaders have a golden opportunity to accelerate the uptake of long-term, sustainable technology solutions in the months and years ahead.
But, to do this, they must first develop the digital leadership skills needed to drive a cultural change and inspire staff, service users, and other stakeholders to have full confidence in digital transformation.
By adopting a forward-thinking, ambitious approach, focusing on the desired care outcomes, rather than the technology itself, long-term and sustainable solutions can be built to last in the new digital health and social care ecosystem of the future
Building strong partnerships with tech providers is crucial in supporting staff and service users as they familiarise themselves with digital solutions.
This collaboration can make all the difference in the successful adoption of new approaches, ensuring that outcomes are achieved and implementation and rollout is accessible to all.
By adopting a forward-thinking, ambitious approach, focusing on the desired care outcomes, rather than the technology itself, long-term and sustainable solutions can be built to last in the new digital health and social care ecosystem of the future.