As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, how can we to think about providing home care for the many thousands who will require it over the next decade and beyond? One thing is certain, the traditional models of the past will not work. Economically the current model will be unaffordable and with workforce shortages undeliverable. Yet the challenge of supporting those with chronic diseases, providing hospital at home and supporting our ever-growing elderly population will remain. Before we become overwhelmed by the challenge or race to impulsive solutions let's think of three things.
Firstly, what do the individuals who need the support want? This is best understood by asking and listening to the response to the question "what would make your life better?" This is sometimes challenging to both service providers and professionals. It requires them to give up some of their power and control in the caring and treatment relationship. This is something that does not come naturally. Furthermore, it challenges traditional methods of working and how they perceive risk management.
Secondly, it spells out that partnership working is critical. This means engaging with families and local communities in a way which service providers and professionals are often uncomfortable. It means giving realistic choices to families about their involvement in the care and treatment of their loved one, where they will feel themselves a partner and not abandoned by the support or care system. The latter is too often the case.
Finally, it is worth looking to other sectors who have had to grapple with cost and people shortage and learn from their approach. Consider the bank card and what it now enables individuals to do in controlling their finance. Or how about the supply and distribution systems in the exploding online shopping market? Are these principles transferable to say chronic disease management?
Looking at these three areas spells out a radically different approach to the use of technology in how we will provide care, yet our delivery systems remain conservative and stubborn in respect of technology. Yes, it is right on occasion to be cautious, take home-based medication support or the risk of cyber-attack into mainframe NHS systems. However, rather than rise to new solutions our current delivery systems often stick with the “what we know” mentality.
Ethel is one of a growing number of technological solutions offering a real opportunity to support people at home. It is a software solution which provides a hardware end point for the service user. Simple to use, easily explained to the user their family and community it quickly becomes a socially compelling attribute to the user. This enables it, without fear, to permit the user to build trust and confidence in it when it comes to its role in their treatment and support. It can quickly become their “care bank card”.
For the professionals or care providers it does not force them to work in a particular way. They can use the technology to design how best they want to exploit the opportunity of having a window into their patients’ home and life where they control security of the device.
Care providers can deliver more home care with a mixture of home and technology visits addressing the issues of cost control and workforce shortage.
With this type of technology, the opportunity to meet the challenge of care and treatment for those living at home is within grasp. The potential is tremendous.