The role of technology in the Social Care sector
The need for local services to transform the way in which they deliver care has never been greater. With anageing population on the horizon, an already-straining system is coming under increasing pressure to ensure a high quality of service for more people than ever before. If client demands are going to be met, both now and in the future, Carers need better tools at their disposal to help them do so.
That support may well come in the form of the latest technology. Whether it’s through AI or virtual reality, technology is already transforming the care sector, changing the way in which clients interact with Carers at a fundamental level. If we can harness its potential, the 1.45 million people employed in the Social Care sector will benefit, as will the people to whom it matters most: those who need their help and support.
But what exactly do these changes look like?
Streamlining the system
The Social Care sector has already gone some way to embracing digital technology. Following the Care Act of 2014, many centres have made the switch to EPRs, or Electronic Patient Records, which store patient details on an online database, giving those patients the ability to access their records and book appointments via their mobile devices.
However, more can be done to streamline the system. A UK-based start-up, Oncare, recently raised half a million pounds for their new software, which aims to free up time for Carers by providing them with a suite of personalised digital tools designed to make their working day easier. This new app lets Social Care staff upload individual care plans and reports on patient visits to a digital interface, which can then be accessed by relatives, and by other care workers.
New developments like this mean that records can instantly be updated and shared electronically, reducing the potential for misunderstandings on both sides. Thanks to these new apps, Carers will have all the information necessary to make immediate, informed decisions on what is best for the patient, thereby creating a faster, more efficient way of providing care.
Tapping into VR
Alongside new apps, virtual reality really holds the potential to change the way in which we think about education in Social Care. New rollouts like Kognito’s simulation game, for instance, lets Carers act out specific virtual scenarios, talking to a student with mental health problems, a child about drug abuse, or even a patient who isn’t taking their prescribed medication. As a result, they can put their training to the test and fine-tune their responses in preparation for real-life situations. It’s even become possible to teach parents and Carers about the impact of trauma on children through VR, via an immersive video which shows traumatic events and the effects they can have from the child’s point of view.
Modern technology also holds direct benefits for the patients themselves. Though Carers often use Skype to contact and conduct appointments, plenty of pioneering new initiatives are being rolled out thanks to the power of VR. VR headsets are being used to transform education for people with learning difficulties, helping them to learn in a safe, controlled environment: one free from any limitations posed by their disability, whether they’re taking speech therapy or a geography lesson. This service can be personalised, it’s free of risk, and it’s becoming an increasingly popular way for Carers to engage with their patients.
Getting smarter with AI
Helping people to remain independent and active is a vital part of any Social Care programme, and AI-led assistive technology is helping Carers do just that. Surprisingly, Amazon’s Alexa assistant is leading the charge here, with Norfolk County Council debuting it alongside its care packages. Using AI, Alexa can help the elderly shop, browse the Internet, and connect with the smart devices in their house designed to make their lives easier. At the same time, Social Care staff can monitor them remotely via sensors, GPS locators and home activity monitors. As a result, their clients can live freely and independently, with both parties secure in the knowledge that help can be accessed through something as simple as a voice command.
This is just the tip of the iceberg where AI is concerned, though. UK care home provider Cera is currently taking its first steps to launch an AI chatbot which will eventually provide on-the-job support to Carers. The platform will eventually use complex algorithms to assist Social Care staff in making recommendations on how best to care for people with conditions like dementia, using data from Social Care staff to ‘train’ the technology on how to improve in its responses. Assistive AI is clearly a growing sector, and with Microsoft investing $25million into its AI for Accessibility programme, this is also a sector we’re expecting to surge in popularity within the next few years.
Indeed, the potential for technology to transform Social Care is limitless. Even as apps for Carers come onto the market, robots are being developed that will be able to care for the UK’s fast-rising population of elderly patients, providing company, support and paving the way for a revolution in how care is delivered. With Social Care undergoing a massive transformation, there’s never been a better - or more exciting - time to get involved.
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