Digital health has the potential to transform the lives of millions of people and make a significant contribution towards the ultimate goal of preventative healthcare. With that in mind, housing providers and local authorities, as well as the NHS and social care providers, should consider how to meet the needs of an ageing population, and understand the role of technology in connecting older people and those with care needs to support independence, health and wellbeing.
The changing role of technology
Technology-enabled care services (TECS) and the concept of the connected home improve many areas of modern life and provide effective support to people of all ages.
People in their 50s and 60s now are increasingly familiar with technology, so in 20 years’ time, 70-80 year-olds will expect technology in their homes. Given how ubiquitous technology is and the accelerating pace of change, this next generation of older people will be not only accepting but welcoming TECS in their homes.
Housing providers therefore need to understand how technology can improve tenants’ quality of life and empower people to take ownership of their wellbeing.
The latest generation of technology can not only respond to potentially life-threatening issues such as fires or gas leaks but can also offer intelligent enhancements to the lives of vulnerable people. For example, enabling the use of wi-fi across housing developments in order to support increased contact with friends and family, reduce isolation and give access to online activities and services.
Technology also enables people to stay connected and lets key stakeholders such as clinicians monitor an individual’s behaviour and wellbeing better. This ensures care is targeted where and when it’s needed most for a more ‘person-centred’ and proactive approach.
Big data gives insight into behavioural patterns, leading to efficient care planning as part of a strengths- and assets-based approach. This predictive modelling can also alert to potential wellbeing issues, enabling more preventative support.
Housing and proposed reforms
The government’s recent white paper on ‘working together to improve health and social care for all’, sets out legislative proposals to build on the collaborations generated during the pandemic, and shape a system that’s better able to serve people in a fast-changing world.
However, the role of our sector in influencing health outcomes has been neglected in the white paper. People’s opportunities for health are influenced by factors beyond our health and social care services, and the government should acknowledge the role of social housing in impacting the health outcomes of a significant proportion of our population.
Living in a home that doesn’t provide a warm, safe and stable environment can have significant impacts on the wellbeing of tenants. For example, cold and damp conditions are associated with poorer health, such as the development and worsening of respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.
We must address housing and health inequalities and take advantage of the opportunities to help tenants remain healthy and independent for as long as possible. This not only requires collaboration between the public and private sectors, but also a more holistic approach that takes individual health requirements and lifestyles into account.
Collaboration between housing, social care and health is vital if we want to give a better quality of life and more independence to tenants. Only by understanding how these three sectors are already connected and facilitating greater collaboration can we more effectively support tenants at home and in their communities.
Health, housing and social care professionals can use technology to deliver a robust platform for health and care delivery, connecting people to enable more proactive and preventative care. Investment in technology solutions now will also mean we have a sustainable, scalable and collaborative network in place if we ever have to face another pandemic.
Technology must be used to establish a better platform to support housing providers and their tenants. This can only happen via a collaborative approach with health and social care providers, based on more strategic decisions with a long-term focus to shape our services for the future.
We’re also beginning to see the next generation of predictive care technologies, and over the next few years it’ll encompass integration that enables diverse and scalable models of care in our sector.
By using AI and taking data-driven insights from multiple sources, housing providers will use this next generation of solutions to optimise health management programmes by providing personalised and anticipatory care.
There’s never been a more important time for the government to work with housing, health and care providers to set out a new vision and commitment to creating a healthy and rejuvenated population using technology.
Zillah Moore is a director of Tunstall Healthcare.