Technology has revolutionised our lives and transformed our economy. As well as the funding and workforce pressures facing traditional health and care services, there are other forces at work that will disrupt business as usual in the care sector. The convergence of mobile communications, cloud computing, machine learning, data analytics, the internet of things and 3D printing are remaking our economy and empowering consumers. So far, care and support, even health care, has remained largely untouched by this revolution.
That is about to change.
The technology enabled care sector in the UK is built on tried and trusted technology, traditional telephone line connectivity delivering voice and data. Over the next few years, possibly as soon as 2023, analogue telephony services will be switched off as the UK’s telecommunications infrastructure is upgraded to digital connectivity.
The implications of this analogue to digital shift are what this report is all about. The paramount concern of the TSA is that the reliability and safety of telecare and social alarm services is not compromised: that lives are not put at risk.
There is an urgent need for government, regulators, telecoms and the TEC sector to agree and mobilise a plan to manage the transition and realise the full potential of digital connectivity.
Today’s TEC is largely delivered by standalone specialist devices chosen and installed by care providers and connected to dedicated monitoring systems. Over 1.7 million people benefit from these services and the peace of mind they offer. We expect further developments, with the ‘internet of things’ forecast to have 20-30 billion devices connected by 2020.
Many of these consumer selected devices and apps, for example, voice interaction systems, smart washing machines, fridges and meters, could be adapted and incorporated within ‘bundles’ of technology enabled care. Indeed, they already are.
The telecommunications industry has started the shift to digital networks, time is short for the TEC sector to prepare itself. The TSA – the voice of the TEC sector – is in the forefront of understanding this complex change management challenge.
Earlier this year we convened a seminar bringing together over 50 of the key players from government, Ofcom, NHS Digital, local government and the TEC sector to share our preliminary research and start a dialogue. This campaign marks a further step. It is a call to action and a challenge.
A call to action to the TEC sector to get ready for the shift and recognise the opportunity it represents to devise new service and product offerings. This must be in tune with the aspirations of a public who value and expect intuitive, easy to understand services and products in every other part of their lives. Simply replicating the analogue service in the digital world will miss that opportunity.
It is a challenge to government, Ofcom, care regulators and telecommunications to work with the TEC sector to ensure the transition is handled well, that vulnerable people are not put at risk and the potential of a digital future for health and care is realised.
The message is not about a nice to have, it is about a MUST DO.