Most Technology Enabled Care Services (TECS) in the UK come in the form of alarm services, for the benefit of 1.7 million older and vulnerable people living at home. These services support independent living through care at a distance, and rely upon remote connectivity. TSA is keen to evaluate the impact of evolving telecommunications on ‘analogue’ alarm technology and services.
Telecommunications providers are moving to ‘packet-switched’ infrastructure to deliver efficiencies and new services. The data packets are the basis for voice and video communication, and many data services. Any systems (such as telecare) that rely on interaction across these networks may need to co-exist, and find new ways of ensuring the reliability and availability of their safety related services. This is recognised in countries where digital shift is already well underway (Sweden and Australia), and where ‘internet protocol’ connectivity is resulting in large-scale replacement of telecare equipment by IP-connected devices.
More widely, our society continues to be impacted by a ‘shift to digital’ through emergent technology, and access to new functionality, services and information. It is difficult to imagine any aspect of our lives that is not impacted by new technology opportunities, from online dating to planning funeral services. These bring new commercial models, with radically different supply chains and partnership working. The TEC industry is not immune to this wave of change.
TEC services have expanded over several decades, and interaction with other elements of the healthcare economy can be complex, so that generic and quantifiable outcome measures can prove elusive. Nevertheless, there seems little doubt that alarm services perform an invaluable role, and without them we would experience sizeable, knock-on impacts on wider social and healthcare services.
Many of us are already exploring emergent technologies through our smartphones, downloading intriguing care related applications, linking these to wearable devices, or connecting to smart devices around the home, perhaps employing activity monitoring or medication and exercise reminders. Arguably, the most positive disruptions will arise from new care services fed by smart interpretations of connected data. In short, our expectations of TECS are growing.
Whilst we may be exploring this connected world at a relatively simple level, there are inevitably some deeper challenges. For example, the new technology may fail to meet established standards for safety or information governance. However, I suggest that there is no turning back - a world of TEC will become increasingly important to us, driven by demographic and commercial pressures, but also by our growing awareness and familiarity with smart technology solutions.
The likely changes could be extensive, impacting everything from end user services to care commissioning and associated supply chains. So, perhaps the most appropriate first step is to articulate a vision for future TEC, and then test that our steps along the way align with this vision. Watch this space….
In May 2017 TSA brought together a wide range of stakeholder organisations to discuss the benefits and challenges involved in the analogue to digital transition and to identify next steps. These discussions will be distilled into key actions/recommendations in a White Paper to be published at the TSA International Technology Enabled Care Conference in October 2017.