Every hour of every day, telecare services directly support the independence and safety of 1.7 million vulnerable people in the UK. Those individuals who may have otherwise required a number of home care services or a place in a care home, can, with the help of the right technology enabled care (TEC), aim to maintain and regain their independence.
Many services that employ analogue connectivity, including the vast majority of current telecare services, will need to be upgraded or decommissioned. Yet action is uncertain and too slow, and a large-scale upgrade programme has not yet begun. If the UK fails to act in a swift and coordinated way, a great number of vulnerable people could lose the technology they rely on, and it is likely that other health and care services would be significantly impacted as a result.
Moving from analogue to digital TEC should be about more than just replacing existing technology on a like-for-like basis. Whilst simple replacement is an option, a more fundamental redesign of the TEC offer has the potential to transform health and care services across the UK to the benefit of those people who rely on them.
Beyond enabling individuals to remain safe and secure, technology emerging now can offer so much more: Richer datasets can enable integrated care services, and the design of predictive services, with the aim of preventing problems before they escalate.
Technology can potentially reable daily activities that many of us take for granted, helping individuals reintegrate into communities and remain productive members of society. In an age where isolation and loneliness are as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, digital technology can add years to life and life to years.
Immediate, concerted action is needed to avert a major disruption to telecare. Understanding the scale of the impact and defining a vision for future TEC services are vital first steps in creating a roadmap for digital transition. The roadmap needs to enable a rich mixture of technologies and services from multiple suppliers, all within an evolving telecommunications infrastructure, where service providers need greater transparency from infrastructure providers and the regulator.
Diversity in technology and service models will need to be encouraged and managed, to exploit the opportunities presented by the growth of consumer-chosen technologies. Collaboration and engagement across organisations and sectors will be critical to success in this context.
Safety and security in cyberspace will be paramount, and we, the TEC industry, need to manage this challenge as we seek to embrace innovation and positive disruption in a digital world.
The potential economic impact of a digital transition is significant. Intelligent deployment of technology enabled care could contribute to efficiencies in care delivery whilst improving the health, wellbeing and independence of vulnerable people.
Telecoms migration to digital networks has already started. The TEC community also needs to act now in responding to these changes.
We need to minimise the disruption to TEC services and hence any negative impact on NHS and social care services. Investment will be required in the short term to deliver guidance, education and transitional steps to digital technology enabled services, and we need a clear understanding of the costs and benefits as we pursue a more sustainable and productive future.
The digital shift is inevitable. We, the TEC community, need a plan of action to minimise the disruption of current services and pursue digital inclusion for vulnerable citizens. A roadmap must be developed that can be agreed and worked to by all the key stakeholders, and is vital in ensuring that vulnerable users and carers are transitioned to new services ahead of any telecommunications deadlines.
It is evident that consumers will have an increasing say in the specifications and user experience for new technologies and services. We need to consider how new choosers, recommenders and payers will impact the TEC marketplace, and how co-pay models can be made to work effectively.
The TEC community needs to pursue funding options and create a ring-fenced procurement environment to manage the changeover. Capacity and capability will need to be supported to enable the work required to manage the change.
The digital transition of TEC services will require focused contributions from multiple sectors. For these different parties to work effectively together, clear national leadership is required, starting with central government.
Collaboration and alignment are vital, driven by clear and accurate communication