09 December 2022
By Hector Alexander - Co-Founder of Yokeru.io
A few weeks ago, Kevin McSorley and Hector Alexander sat down over tea and looked back at the last three years. And, heck! What a few years. A pandemic, political commotion, and a cost-of-living crisis. The pandemic, in particular, led Kevin, and Radius Connect 24, to some essential conclusions: that the once-routine 'Health & Wellbeing Call' is central to service delivery, that pro-active calling is, in essence, preventative, and Connect 24 must find ways to remedy an ARCs traditional capacity constraints. Kevin reflects back and then looks forward to a future enabled by AI technology. A future his team at Connect 24 are inventing.
Kevin McSorely - Head of Radius Connect 24
HA: So, Kevin, where were you in early 2019?
KM: At Connect 24 today, we do crisis intervention; we also did then. That is, responding reactively to alarm calls following an acute incident. And for three decades, Radius Connect24 has been a leading incident management service operating to the highest standards.
Proactive calling enables preventative support. Someone –– not I –– invented proactive calling long ago. But in the nineties, we launched our Good Morning Call service. We called into schemes remotely from the centre. The GMC service called sheltered housing residents confirmed their health and wellbeing status as part of their sheltered support model. Up until then, scheme managers called around with their on-site hardwired system; in their absence, support ceased.
HA: What happened in 2019-2021?
KM: The pandemic led to a lockdown (or lock-in), or "shielding". Formal and informal carers were in short supply. Fewer people could respond to our client's needs as nominated contacts.
Less immediately visible, but readily apparent when considered, was the increased social isolation of those shielding and the potential impact on health and wellbeing.
Across housing, there was an immediate reduction in the availability of scheme staff to carry out the usual on-site morning or health and wellbeing check calls. As such, we saw an immediate increased demand for these calls, beyond the capacity of the existing call advisor staff complement. We were making over 4,200 outbound calls per week instead of the usual 1,200. Due to capacity, we introduced a risk profiling approach to those we called (those living alone, without carer visits etc.). Support calls to those assessed as less vulnerable were carried out by colleagues whom Radius redeployed from other roles.
From our perspective, there were three key learnings: First, the priority of the once-routine Health & Wellbeing Call increased. It was a vital instrument across housing at a time when other supports were not available. Second, a need was often identified on the call and consequently met. The call enabled more timely intervention; proactive calling was itself preventative. Finally, we needed to find a different way of working to increase our capacity to deliver this service.
HA: So, a purely reactive crisis intervention model a couple of decades ago has transformed. The introduction of the Good Morning Call sowed the seeds. Decades later –– more recently, from our standpoint –– the delivery of proactive calls at scale during the pandemic shifted the model. In the last year, Kevin, what have you been up to?
KM: In 2022, we've been working with Yokeru. We've explored and implemented AI in our proactive call model.
The call workflow is straightforward. We capture the details of the call schedule for our clients on the web app. Yokeru automatically can make multiple call attempts to multiple people at the same time. A proactive call from a call advisor will follow up with service users who do not respond or need support. Results are available and accessible in real-time on the platform.
The first step in this implementation was acknowledging that clients do not always need, or wish to have, a social alarm to access this service; Yokeru calls 67% on their mobile phones. The second step was re-focusing our call advisor resource on supporting those needing support. In a matter of months, we've increased our service capacity from 1,000 calls a day to 10,000 calls a day, with only a maximum of 10% of calls needing a follow—up escalation capacity by a call advisor. This is at a time when most centres are experiencing record capacity constraints.
HA: Outside of the monitoring centre, how does the wider community feel the benefits?
KM: Both our traditional reactive alarm monitoring model and our remodelled outbound pro-active, preventative outbound models are intellectually simple service model concepts.
Nevertheless, they deliver immeasurable (or not measured) benefits in terms of reassurance and peace of mind to clients and informal carers. They help clients maintain their independence and dignity. Tenants have fed beck the following:
Moreover, they have secondary benefits to the health and social care system and the housing sector, enabling people to live at home longer, reducing the need for upheaval and unsettling move to residential or nursing care or hospital admission.
HA: I can see you've got the Christmas tree up –– festive. What are your plans for 2023?
KM: There is always an ongoing conversation about identifying and overcoming barriers to innovation. The challenge is to use technology to enhance rather than replace human relationships. We need technology to help workers work smarter, promote social inclusion and protect the vulnerable. This takes work!
So in 2023 we're going to increase the scale of proactive calling with Yokeru. And because proactive calls are preventative, their use will reduce inbound calls we receive. We will further develop the range of proactive outbound calling services for health, housing and social care. Ultimately, we plan to completely shift the activity balance in our service from reactive to proactive.
‘Enabling technology such as AI calls can demonstrate positive outcomes for tenants, for staff managing their activities and for services dealing with increasing demand – they can also benefit the health, care and housing system. It is great to see a partnership approach between Radius Connect 24 as a service provider, Yokeru as a solution supplier, both QSF certified organisations delivering quality driven services – not being led by technology but combining enabling technology with wrap around support services to deliver personalised outcomes and targeted interventions.’ - Nathan Downing - Director of Membership & Consultancy Services, TSA