In the third of the Digital Care Futures Podcast Series by University of Sheffield's Sustainable Care Programme and TEC Services Association (TSA), Liverpool City Council Ann Williams (Commissioner and Contract Manager); James Bullion (Executive Director of Adult Social Services) at Norfolk County Council; Sarah Rank (Head of Business and Technology (Adult Social Services) at Norfolk County Council; and Geoff Connell (Director of IMT & Chief Digital Officer) will join hosts Sheffield's Dr Kate Hamblin and TSA Tim Mulrey Lead Advisor Analogue to Digital this Wednesday to talk about some of the challenges and opportunities they have encountered within the TEC marketplace as startups, plus the approach of adult social care commissioning towards innovations in care technologies. Read some of the background >>
Technology enabled care services and systems are facing a challenge in the form of the switchover from analogue to digital telecommunications networks. The major telecommunications networks are moving their networks from analogue to digital connections, with implications for all people and services that use these networks, including TECS as they may no longer function reliably. This is a pressing issue as although the switchover will be completed in 2025, it is already underway in some areas of the UK. For TECS to function reliably, service providers and commissioners will need to consider how they will manage the digital shift. There are cost implications related to this shift- not only replacing the analogue with digital devices, but also the resources required for associated installation and support and the ongoing costs related to SIM cards. There are also issues around the functionality of digital TEC devices, as they will not have the same battery back-up as analogue-based devices, which could leave users vulnerable in a power cut.
TEC Services Association (TSA) has been central in driving the case for analogue to digital transformation for the Technology Enabled Care market since 2017 with its initial publication of the White Paper A Digital Future For TEC. The TSA’s latest publication –
Analogue to Digital: A Commissioner’s Guide; The End of Analogue Purchasing provides guidance on a series of key topics that Commissioners and Buyers of digital devices and platforms need to consider in order to ensure that they are making the right long-term decisions for their organisation. Many stakeholders with commissioning and purchasing responsibility have held back from fully investing in end-to-end digital solutions due to a fear of making an investment decision in technology that would not stand the test of time or be sustainable. However, the latest guidance is designed to incorporate lessons learned from around the UK and abroad to provide stakeholders with accurate and consistent information. The TSA will continue to work closely with its members and industry stakeholders to provide information and guidance across a range of media in order to support the TEC sector in the progression to full digital solutions.
5G Mesh Network: Liverpool City Council
Liverpool City Council had begun to explore digital TECS options in the mid-2010s when it became apparent that increasingly people did not have landline telephone connections in place. When the council looked at the cost of replacing all their analogue telecare devices with SIM-card enabled versions, the resources required were prohibitive and instead created its own private 5G network to contain these costs. Initially focused on a particular ward, Liverpool CC created a 5G mesh network with nodes attached to lamp-posts to allow them to trial new digital TEC devices, as well as providing the opportunity to examine how mainstream devices people may already own may be used to support them to live independently for longer. During the pandemic, the 5G mesh network has enabled remote consultations and assessments, but as it can be used by any enabled devices, it also allowed people to connect socially and schoolchildren living in the area to freely connect to online learning.
Pharmacy in the Home: The 5G mesh network allowed Liverpool CC to trial new devices and ways of working. One example of this is the use of a 4K video device (Paman), connected to the 5G mesh network, co-designed with pharmacists as a medication prompt linked to pharmacists to watch the service user take their medications. The aim was to reduce the need for homecare visits focused solely on medication reminders, but also to reduce medication wastage. The system also allows the user to ask the pharmacist questions.
Ann Williams, Commissioner and Contract Manager, Liverpool City Council: “Technology can never replace completely the one-to-one care- that's not what it’s there for. We can help people live independently and longer in their own homes and have a better quality of life. What I don’t want to do is to make sure that some of the technology creates a dependency that then makes them totally locked in their own premises because they don't feel safe unless they near a box. And so then they become totally insular, and really almost institutionalized in their own home. We want to get past that”.
LoRaWAN, Superfast Broadband and Mobile Coverage: Norfolk County Council
The need to deploy digital TEC devices and services due to the analogue switchover creates challenges related to costs but for some areas of the UK, the ability to connect digitally is more challenging due to uneven Broadband and mobile phone coverage. Norfolk County council were facing issues with Broadband coverage from the main telecommunications providers and developed a strategy that has focused on creating and enhancing opportunities for digital connectivity. Several projects have focused on Broadband connectivity, increasing coverage of superfast coverage from 42% to 96% in ten years. In addition, Norfolk and Suffolk Innovation Network is the largest free-to-use public sector long range wide area network (LoRaWAN) in the UK for Internet of Things (IoT) devices to enable innovation and deliver digital TECS. These networks and their focus on promoting connectivity underpins Norfolk’s technology strategy with three strands, centred on citizens (including digital TECS that use these networks), providers (including how these networks facilitate remote visits and electronic care records) and their own workforce (who are enabled to work in agile ways through the use of digital technologies and connectivity).
NATALI (Norfolk Assistive Technology Application (for) Living Independently: A recent development by Norfolk County Council is a project that uses the LoRaWAN with IoT devices and sensors forming a ‘Home Activity Monitoring (HAM) system’ to develop a picture of users’ regular patterns of regular patterns of behavior, and then provide support should the data generated indicate there has been a change.
Sarah Rank, Head of Business and Technology for Adult Social Services, Norfolk County Council: “Thinking around technology, it isn't a one-size-fits all. It's an enabler, it's to help. So, I know we've had concerns before ‘well, are you going to put technology in? I want that face-to-face contact- I want to see that person’. That isn't the case- it is around helping and enabling all of our social care practice to be able to deliver the services, but… if technology can help, then let's use it”.
Tune in on Wednesday morning when the final podcast of this TEC Series goes live >> http://circle.group.shef.ac.uk/2021/11/26/digital-care-futures-ep3/