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The self-funded consumer market

Posted on 01 Mar, 2017

By Dr Gillian Ward, Centre for Technology Enabled Health Research, Coventry University

In the UK, provision of Assisted Living Technology (ALT) is predominantly through the NHS and local authority social services. However, reductions in public funding, means testing and strict eligibility criteria for statutory services mean that many people are not eligible for such services. As a result some people are beginning to look to the self-funded consumer market to meet their needs.

The three year Consumer Models for Assisted Living Study (COMODAL), led by Coventry University and funded by Innovate UK, investigated the barriers and enablers to the development of the ALT consumer market and found consumer awareness of ALT is poor and the consumer market is not well-developed in the UK.

46 companies in the assisted living market contributed to the study and we found that direct consumer sales are low with many companies selling to public service providers rather than directly to end users. Poorly designed and stigmatising products are also hampering wider adoption.

Local Authorities (LAs) now have duties, under the Care Act (2014), to inform their communities and raise awareness of ALT but, in light of reducing resources, they face challenges in developing the communication materials to undertake this work.

The COMODAL study produced several publications and outputs based on what consumers told us they wanted to see developed in a commercial market for assisted living technologies. The findings from the COMODAL project also informed the development of the ATHome public awareness campaign, to raise public awareness of assistive technologies across the West Midlands and provides a unique ‘test-bed’ to measure the impact of the research.

All 14 LAs in the West Midlands signed up to the ATHome campaign that was launched in April 2015 at Naidex, NEC Birmingham to raise public awareness of ALT in supporting people to live independently at home. To track and evaluate the impact of the ATHome initiative and the impact of the COMODAL research findings, an online survey will be sent to TSA members (many of who contributed to the original study), West Midlands Regional Telecare Network members and users registered to the ATHome mailing list.

In addition, the online survey will gather feedback from suppliers/providers to see what influence the COMODAL research has had on them, i.e. softer marketing, funding simple videos, offering discounts, interaction with customers.

Please look out for the link (to be sent in April), and respond to the survey so we can see how the market and services are changing to meet the needs of our ageing population.

For further information please contact: Dr Gillian Ward, Centre for Technology Enabled Health Research, Coventry University g.ward@coventry.ac.uk

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