We started the Housing Learning and Improvement Network (LIN) with the belief that when great people come together and share ideas, inspirational things happen. What has become apparent over the last few years is that person-centric, connected care, while widely regarded as the future of healthcare, remains a mystery to many people.
With an increasing drive to develop new models of care that reduce the demand on more costly services, the Housing LIN, in partnership with Tunstall Healthcare, has addressed some of the most frequently-asked questions in a bid to eliminate misconceptions and clear the way for the future of connected care.
People often ask about how telecare can be funded and made financially viable. Thankfully, telecare can be funded in a variety of ways, whether you are a home-owner or tenant, via your local authority means-tested eligibility criteria; by the individual or their families or informal carers through a personal budget; or it can be part-funded through the council or housing provider, and even through a range of grant-making charities.
Many people are keen to know what specific applications the technology has to support everyday living and how it can be implemented without causing distress or upheaval.
Technology can aid various elements of everyday life such as cooking or medication. For medication, it’s essential to get dosages and times right. Management can be carried out through medication-monitoring devices which provide prompts and send-out calls to the telecare monitoring centre when medication isn’t taken. This allows the response team or next-of-kin to contact the individual and ensure they are up-to-date with their medication.
Cooking and making meals is another important part of daily life but for some individuals living independently, preparing dinner could be a cause for concern, especially if they have memory problems or a tendency to wander. Smoke detectors, temperature extremes sensors and gas alarms can be linked to telecare alarm systems which can trigger alerts at the designated response centre. Intelligent cookers are also available which can minimise the risk by detecting that the cooker hob is on but no pan, so will turn itself off, as well as being able to set time periods for cooking.
Links to housing strategy
Housing providers often ask how connected care technology can support their business objectives. This depends on the individual business objectives and issues that are being solved, but new digital technologies can support a number of business objectives, such as:
- The need to provide more proactive, preventive services, such as remote online consultations and medication support;
- The need to provide social activities, befriending and digital inclusion support;
- The need to provide homes that meet the lifetime and lifestyle choices that people aspire to;
- The need to report repairs and maintenance issues via an easy-to-use tablet or app.
Attitudes to technology
People are frequently concerned about a lack of confidence and fears of social isolation with the use of technology. When it comes to attitudes to technology, seeing is believing and examples of real life stories really are the key. The way to describe it is not as technology, but by the outcomes and benefits it provides for people. Telecare gives communities and people more control; this is about increasing choice, with support targeted where and when it is needed the most, with a round-the-clock back-up service. Technology is not about replacing human contact or restricting independence; it is about helping the person maintain independence, choice and self-determination so they can live life to the full.
We are often asked about the move to IP/digital and what this will mean. IP will transform the way information is provided and the speed information moves around. The home of the future will be full of things that are IP-enabled including fridges, cookers, tablets, energy monitors, CCTV and remote-access control. Another concern which often arises is with the safety of mobile/wi-fi. When it comes to safety, it depends on what it is being used for. If the solution is to check your blood pressure or weight twice a day and a late reading is not life critical, then the resilience needs to be less robust than responsive solutions such as telecare, which require immediate attention to an event such as a fall or smoke detector activation.
Another subject of great interest is raising the awareness of technology and engaging the whole community. There is a role for providers to enable every person to have the opportunity to benefit from technology appropriate to their needs and provide up-to-date, accessible and easy-to-find information that lists what technology is available in their local area. As learning and improvement is at the heart of what the Housing LIN is all about, we would certainly recommend the deployment of regular and professional awareness training programmes, covering all teams and stakeholders that indicates you are working towards a holistic service which will improve outcomes for individuals and create efficiencies in the system.
Jeremy Porteous is a director of the Housing Learning & Improvement Network.