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Opportunities in digital care a priority for housing providers in 2017

Posted on 01 Mar, 2017

More than half (56%) of housing associations and providers are actively planning to move from analogue telecare, warden and community call systems to digital/IP (internet protocol) solutions. The findings of the Fast Forward to Digital Care report, published by Appello, one of the UK’s leading technology-enabled care service (TECS) providers, and The Housing Learning and Improvement Network (LIN), paints a promising picture for the future of digital care technologies with 84% of housing providers agreeing that the adoption of digital will be critical for their future success.

The report, the result of a roundtable discussion and a subsequent survey of 80 senior executives from providers of retirement housing, local authorities and those responsible for delivering support to older people at home, found that only 9% of those surveyed had no plans to phase out analogue systems.

However, the lack of support and understanding of digital is holding back investment and stifling innovation. Just over a third (34%) said their organisations need further education about the benefits of digital care and 31% cited contracts with existing providers as limiting their ability to move to digital. This reflects the fact that some suppliers don’t offer digital services, while others want to get the most from their investments in analogue technology for as long as possible.

“Many of the telecare systems deployed today have not changed for 30 years – these systems are still analogue-based and rely on the UK telecommunications infrastructure which is shifting from analogue to digital,” comments Carl Atkey, Chief Technology Officer at Appello. “Digital presents new opportunities for housing providers, enabling them to leverage the speed, scalability and data richness to deliver more affordable, contemporary, person-centred monitoring and care.”

The improved customer benefits from going digital were the main reasons for upgrading systems according to 65% of the respondents, followed by digital being a strategic commitment from the CEO or board members (44%).

The benefits of digital care tie in to housing providers' top priorities of improving the customer experience, reducing costs, and creating a better understanding of customers through data and insight.

  • Fast, simultaneous connections - Emergency calls connect much faster than analogue systems: average connection times come down from roughly 1 minute 40 seconds to under 4 seconds, and there’s no call queuing — so door entry calls no longer block other activities.
  • Future-ready infrastructure - IP-ready infrastructure is compatible and future proofed with the emerging UK digital network.
  • Inclusion - Video calling via tablet apps supports improved communication between residents and staff, and greater safety through video door entry.
  • Activity logging - Digital care supports enhanced data collection for reporting for refinements, audit purposes and security.
  • Richer data - Digital care systems give housing providers an opportunity to collect and analyse data to improve levels of support and the customer experience.

Currently only 39% of providers agreed that they were a digital business but the future looked promising with 75% suggesting the housing sector has plenty of growth opportunities and 65% and 63% believing the heath and the social care sectors had potential for growth respectively.

“In some ways, it is remarkable that there is any debate about the move from traditional, analogue-based telecare to digitally enabled solutions. We have been talking about an empowered, discerning and demanding new generation of consumers for more than a decade now,” comments Jeremy Porteus, Director, Housing Learning and Improvement Network. “Providers do grasp the transformative impact telecare delivers for the health and wellbeing of residents, but many seem uncertain how urgently they need to respond.”

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