The future of care: how technology is transforming care

Claire Montague, Health and Social Care Subject Specialist at CACHE

From mobile lifting chairs helping a person up after a fall, to self-steadying cutlery assisting those with hand tremors, technology in health and social care is on the rise and could change the sector beyond recognition. 

The number of over-75s in the UK is set to double in the next 40 years. With this ever-increasing older population fuelling demand for care services and the significant funding gap in the system, the situation is critical. It’s no surprise that the sector is feeling this immense pressure from the growing expectation to achieve more with less resource – but could technology help fix the crisis?

Although social care may be behind other sectors when it comes to adopting technology, Health and Social Care Minister Matt Hancock made integrating care technologies one of his priorities for the NHS with the aim of addressing the challenges faced and allowing people to access the care they need quickly and easily.

We’ve already welcomed a number of innovations to the sector such as GPS trackers to locate vulnerable people quickly and safely, automatic pill dispensers that set off an alarm when it’s time to take medication and provide the correct dosage, and smart wearable sensors for monitoring and reporting heart rates or if someone has had a fall – but what’s next?

Home care robots have been hugely debated in the sector with mixed emotions from society. Designed to do general housework, give medication reminders and alert medical professionals if needed, the robots could ease the pressure in social care and with the staggering number of vacancies in the sector, it may become increasingly tempting for the government to outsource care to machines.

But this doesn’t come without its challenges. As well as the obvious budget constraints to implementing more technology, the sector also faces barriers such as security and resistance towards change. Previous attempts to integrate digital technology have been plagued with various challenges, and this has increased the reluctance of the sector to embrace change.

Many people are concerned about the dignity and welfare of service users when it comes to technology such as the home care robots. Without human contact, service users will miss out on the pleasure of another individual knowing them. Can any amount of artificial intelligence replace the interaction between two human beings? The impact this will have on the elderly and vulnerable could be a worrying thought.

However, if the change is managed effectively, it’s more likely to be successful. If these robots and other advanced technologies do become integrated in care settings, it’s vital that they are used to help and complement human caregivers and not replace them, so that service users still receive the human interaction that is often essential for their holistic wellbeing.

The rise in technology may also present an opportunity for practitioners to upskill and develop their knowledge, so that the advancements can ease the strain and allow care workers to use their time more efficiently to provide the best possible care to society’s most vulnerable.

Although it’s clear that the use of technology is not a substitute for the emotional support of human carers, they can allow ­­more patients to receive the care they need at home, which is often their wish. It’s possible that these advanced technologies will become a necessity in care, and we can use the benefits to successfully transform the system. 

CACHE has developed units specifically designed to support practitioners working with technology, these are included in a number of our health and social care qualifications, including the Level 4 Diploma in Adult Care which contains an optional unit on assistive living technologies.

Visit qualhub.co.uk to find out more.