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The Human Factor

Following the recent publication of TEC stories in conjunction with Think Local Act Personal and Care England, Clenton Farquharson asks how we can keep technology allied to personalised care and support.

The pace of change is so fast these days in every sphere of life, but is the care system keeping up with the power of technology? From everyday gadgets such as a tablet to complex artificial intelligence (AI), we should all be aware to how we can think differently about technology and how the opportunities it offers to improve people’s lives. But the trick to getting the most out of technology is to shape it around the person, not the other way around. That’s why any discussion around commissioning and investing in TEC should be framed in terms of how we make people’s lives better.

People of every age have their own history, hopes, dreams, skills and experience. As a disabled person, I want to lead an ordinary life and not be defined or limited by my health and care needs. What matters is my quality of life. Technology is not a panacea and so needs investment in time and money, as well as a genuine understanding of people’s needs and capabilities.

Technology enabled care (TEC) can offer real ways to create better outcomes – and this includes prevention and reducing an escalation of needs. That doesn’t mean that individuals necessarily think in terms of avoiding visits to hospital or clinical interventions ahead of a crisis – but it can be a by-product of having the right tech tools that fits around people’s needs. However, it should always assist and support already existing personalised care and support.

What we need to do is to work out where technology can fit within a care and support plan. How can it help people keep in touch with family, stay healthy, able to travel, socialise or even have good old-fashioned fun? Good personal relationships can help people make informed choices when it comes to their own care and support. The important thing is to enable people to understand what TEC can offer them, rather than focus on what it can do for ‘the system’. Think Local Act Personal’s Making it Real offers a helpful framework for having these kinds of conversations.

I’m a great believer in co-production and I know that there’s a lot of focus on ‘user experience’ in the application of technology. Can we encourage designers and developers to involve the people who might become customers in the early stages of design and testing so that we can move to co-design and co-production?

Wherever people live and whatever their condition, digital technology can, in the right circumstances, offer opportunities for a better life. Just be creative and imaginative in its application and remember never to put the tech before the person.

Clenton Farquharson MBE, is Chair of Think Local Act Personal, and a disabled person. He is a member of the NHS Assembly, current chair of Quality Matters, trustee of the Race Equality Foundation, and ambassador for Disability Rights UK.

For best practice examples of TEC being used effectively and meaningfully in a care setting for better outcomes for both individuals and care staff see TEC Stories Care Homes.


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