What are the true costs of analogue care?

With current approaches to Scotland’s social services labelled unsustainable, and health care similarly under pressure, this guest article by Tom Morton of Communicare247 argues that the potential for digital technology to address health and care needs should be realised now, rather than waiting for the limitations and costs of existing analogue solutions to become ever more apparent.

Health and care provision across the globe is under pressure to provide the best in care to a growing population, in the most efficient way possible. Different countries are responding in different ways.

In Scotland, rising demand and costs for public services mean that, “by 2020, the country’s 32 councils will have to spend an extra £700m on top of the £3.1bn per year spent now”, Accounts Commission chairman, Douglas Sinclair told BBC Scotland. He also called current approaches “not sustainable”.

Health is also facing significant financial pressures, with Audit Scotland reporting that Scottish NHS boards will have to make unprecedented savings of £492m in the current final year. Some may not be able to achieve financial balance, as all struggle to meet the needs of a growing and ageing population.

Health and care providers are looking to address these issues by delivering more person-centred services within the citizen’s home. For many this means wider use of telecare or technology enabled care (TEC) to provide remote monitoring, responsive alarms, and round-the-clock support for these individuals.

Telecare is delivering benefits; one report found that widespread, targeted use of telecare could create potential savings of between £3m to £7.8m for a typical council, equating to 7.4% to 19.4% of the total older peoples’ social care budget. Savings for the NHS have also been identified, with reductions in unnecessary hospital admissions and healthcare appointments.

So with such evidence of impact, it is disconcerting to know that only around one in seven of the over 65s have access to telecare services. Such technology could help address many of the issues affecting health and care provision, but it needs investment if it is to make its contribution.

Current analogue approaches are not fit for purpose
click to enlargeThe UK needs to invest wisely. Currently most telecare systems are reliant on phone landlines – this is called ‘analogue’ telecare. But we need to invest in digital telecare if we want to maintain a society where our senior and vulnerable citizens can be cared for in an acceptable way.

The analogue delivery system is unsustainable due to increasing demands, with often tragic communication failures emerging that could be avoided. Current analogue services already report around 3% of failed call attempts between the home and response services, because they cannot communicate effectively over the new digital telephone network systems. (more…)