Kevin Alderson, sales and marketing director at Tunstall Healthcare, considers the challenges and latest thinking around digital and IP technologies.
It’s an exciting time for technology as we move into the digital world, but it’s a challenge to understand what it actually means for housing providers. Technology is moving towards fully digital/IP-based systems and there is a limited understanding of what ‘the art of the possible’ actually is.
In July, South West Housing held a workshop and tour of Taunton Borough Council’s Extra Care facility. The workshop tried to answer this conundrum with over 50 people from the housing sector. It focused on ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ and attempted to paint the art of the possible in terms of digital/IP technology. The discussion unearthed some real concerns for people.
There was a big debate about new technologies which perhaps were untested. For example, the NHS says there were 125,000 new health apps developed last year alone, but only 125 had been tested. Some innovations (such as Uber, which allows you to find a taxi easily) are not regulated, but are still extremely popular. Other things which are available include geo-tagging, which defines the area a vulnerable person is in (linked to Google maps), and if things go wrong; for example, if an elderly person travels more than 10 miles per hour or goes outside the safe zone, a carer can be alerted.
Another key issue is listening to people’s needs. 72 per cent of people die in hospital even though most people say that they want to die at home; surely technology can help here? In fact, we know that it can.
At the workshop, general public awareness was highlighted. For example, one problem might be that an elderly man comes downstairs at 2am, puts the bacon on the hob but forgets the frying pan. Or an elderly woman wanders too far and gets disoriented. We have no idea where to look for useful technology to support our loved ones, and how to make the right choices, so start with the problem and work towards the right technology.
So what does the technological future hold?
The next five years will be much more transformational than the previous 50 years in terms of technology in care.
The IP transformation is enormous for the housing sector because it allows you to do so much more. For example, trains allow you to go from A to B but eight-lane motorways have transformed the speed, flexibility and ease of travel. However, you have to bear in mind that there are some disadvantages which need to be dealt with; for example, IP-enabled devices cost more and their reliability and resilience needs to be taken into account.
It is not advantageous just to buy IP-enabled equipment, as the equipment alone will produce the same outcomes as before but at a higher cost. You need to work with a provider who will make sure it works reliably in every circumstance – it’s about a broader service delivering more benefits.
In the home of the not too distant future, you will have potentially hundreds of IP-enabled devices. Bringing the home to life through digital connectivity is where the future lies. If you get your infrastructure in place, your motorway into the home will go on to achieve outcomes, efficiency and productivity gains.
Kevin Alderson is the sales and marketing director for Tunstall Healthcare.