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Facing the future: Innovate and survive

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Innovation can create more efficient care homes and better care, explains Professor Martin Green

Martin Green

Professor Martin Green

The health and social care system is under unprecedented pressure.

There are the challenges of demographic change and increasing need while at the same time we are living through an era of austerity. This means that the budgets available to deliver high-quality care are significantly reduced.

Faced with these challenges, services will need to be creative and innovative and the services that survive into the future will be the ones that embrace a new era rather than trying to hide away from it.

Innovation can take many forms and care providers need to be creative and look at how to develop new models of care to squeeze more efficiency out of their services. All too often efficiency is used as a metaphor for cuts, but this certainly should not be about reducing the level and quality of care, rather it should be about looking at the system to see how we can improve quality and outcomes, while at the same time making better use of scarce resources.

”Innovation can take many forms and care providers need to be creative”

There are many ways in which care services can think creatively and develop new services that sit alongside their old ones, thereby expanding their reach and delivering support to more people. I am particularly interested in the way in which residential care can scan the local community and fill gaps within existing care provision.

A good example of this is residential care services that have developed day care, and night sitting services alongside their residential provision. This not only improves the quality of life for many people living with dementia in the local area but it strengthens the business model and delivers new markets to the care sector.

New technology also opens a range of possibilities for care providers and I’m particularly interested in the way in which technology can enable staff to have more time with residents. There are many ways in which technology can support individuals in care settings, and we have seen good examples of health data being transferred directly to the GP so that preventative healthcare measures can be put in place the moment somebody exhibits the symptoms of particular conditions.

”It is often said that the care sector is not good with new technology, I absolutely refute this assertion”

I am also very interested in the way in which the iPhone and iPad can be used to cascade training and support information to the professionals who deliver front-line care. It is often said that the care sector is not good with new technology, I absolutely refute this assertion and whenever I go into care homes, I see care staff that are very competent at using smart phones and tablets in a range of ways, and also care providers using this technology to deliver a system of independent feedback about services from residents and their families.

The care home sector needs to capitalise on this, and ensure that we enable our colleagues to use technology to improve front-line care and support care practitioners. The beauty of new technology is that it is instant, and as people see a particular need, they can call up a range of ways to provide support and deliver an outcome.

The 21st-century has already seen a quantum shift in the way in which information is transferred between citizens and many sectors have jumped into this new world and the care sector has been left behind. We can no longer afford to deliver 20th century services to 21st-century citizens.

We owe it to our residents, to their family and to our staff to ensure that we innovate and use every opportunity we have to improve the quality of care, reduce the burden on staff and deliver for citizens.

Professor Martin Green OBE is the chief executive of Care England, the Chief Executive: Care England, Department of Health Independent Sector Dementia Champion and chair of the International Longevity Centre, UK

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