As recently noted by the Academy of Medical Sciences1, this winter could see health and social care services facing four acute pressures; rising cases of COVID-19, disruption of the NHS, a backlog of routine care, and flu season coinciding with the current pandemic. Zillah Moore, Director at Tunstall Healthcare, describes how technology can help to address these challenges.
This winter is likely to place unique pressures on our health and social care services, with the COVID-19 virus co-circulating with seasonal flu and other illnesses. These pressures can create risks to the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable people in our society and those who care for them. It’s therefore crucial that investment in technological solutions increases to support the continued provision of effective care delivery and mitigate the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as we move into the winter months.
Technology enabled care services (TECS) has a key role to play in keeping vulnerable people connected to key stakeholders, as well helping to avoid hospital admission and expedite discharge, particularly in the time of COVID-19.
The impact of the pandemic has had significant negative impacts on daily life and many elements of health service, but it has also placed a spotlight on the role of technology in safeguarding people, and its potential in a post-COVID world.
TECS innovations provide remote monitoring of health and care needs which is vital to enable vulnerable people to live independently for longer, reduce pressures on loved ones, and support the health and care sector. However, these technologies are rarely integrated or replicated across different systems. Reasons for this are complex and integrated, including fragmented health and care structures, limited resources, and reluctance to change.
The COVID-19 crisis has led to a significant shift in how technology is used by the NHS, social care organisations, and housing providers, accelerating the pace and scale of adoption. There has been increased investment in remote monitoring devices, telecare systems and other similar technologies to support clinicians and carers in the continued and effective care of vulnerable individuals, as demand has increased.
Technological initiatives, such as remote patient monitoring, which would previously have taken months to become operational have been established and mobilised within weeks. Solutions implemented during COVID-19 have benefitted a range of cohorts, including people living with mental health conditions, such as eating disorders, care home residents and people with long term conditions.
TECS and remote health monitoring services support health and care staff in the continued delivery of care. Remote solutions have reduced the added pressures on staff by enabling ongoing care provision for vulnerable people with complex requirements, and the need for face-to-face contact has been reduced, therefore keeping both service users and staff safe from infection.
Remote health monitoring services also enhance the prevention agenda and enable care to become more predictive and proactive, reducing the need for more complex, and often expensive, care downstream. It also enables greater flexibility in terms of where care is delivered. For example, more people are able to access the care they need at home or in their community, rather than having to visit a hospital or clinic.
The latest generation of TECS which have been deployed to keep vulnerable people connected during the pandemic has moved from enabling people to get help in an emergency, to providing proactive support tailored to individual needs. Vulnerable people can now be supported in their community, and this will only increase as we move to the next phase of innovation with a focus on intelligent data-driven insight.
TECS can greatly reduce pressures on the UK’s services by providing predictive solutions which enable health and social care providers to determine those most at risk across a range of settings. The pandemic has provided clear evidence that technology can play a pivotal role in providing better patient experiences, improved health outcomes, greater staff and carer experiences, and reduced healthcare costs for individuals, the NHS, local authorities, and housing providers. Benefits like this should play a pivotal role in how health and care services are remodelled in a post-COVID world to create a true ‘healthcare’ system.
For more information about how technology can help to support vulnerable people throughout the winter and beyond, please visit https://www.tunstall.co.uk/winter-pressures.