The UTOPIA Project evaluation of telecare in social care report published (UK)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Utopia-project-report-2018.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]An important and comprehensive evaluation of telecare in use in UK social care has been published this past week by King’s College London. The UTOPIA Project (Using Telecare for Older People In Adult social care) surveyed local authority telecare managers (114 valid responses or 75 percent of responders) November 2016-January 2017 to find out how telecare is being used by local authority adult social care departments in England to support older people.

This study springboards from the £80m Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) and its “curious neglect” by those engaged in UK telecare. The WSD’s findings contradicted earlier research in finding that telecare did not have long-term improvement of outcomes, gauged after only 12 months. It created, in the UTOPIA’s study’s terms, a ‘policy problem’ among major stakeholders. “The WSD remains an important study and its neglect is curious. The research team wondered why the findings had been overlooked and what, if any, consequences might have flowed from this.” The study thus looks at local authority aims, how local evidence is being collected, and how telecare is operationalized and delivered.

The areas surveyed and some highlights of the findings are:

  • Use of research: 33 percent were informed by research and 47 percent were aware of but did not agree with the WSD’s findings which were negative on the long-term value of telecare.
  • Where does telecare fit in?:  “Telecare ‘fitted’ best if it was provided alongside social care (77%), to support reablement (77%), for people eligible for and funded by the adult social care department (75%) as well as for people who pay for their own care (75%).” Only 24 percent collaborated with the NHS or other partners. There was full (100 percent) agreement that telecare helps to reduce risk and promote safety and 81 percent agreement that it supports unpaid carers. 
  • Achieving strategic aims and monitoring of progress: Over half (53 percent) of respondents said their local authority was accredited to the Telecare Services Association (TSA) Codes of Practice for Telecare and Telehealth. 
  • Barriers and facilitators: Barriers mentioned were skill deficits among professionals and installers, as well as contract inflexibility with suppliers. There was also concern about the reduction of face-to-face contact and care. Access to telecare and availability of advice and support were good for both users and family carers, but levels of awareness about it were only average.
  • Financial commitment: Not surprisingly, funding is scarce and usually cobbled together from several sources including local authorities, CCGs, and users. 24 percent felt it saved money but many found it difficult to provide hard evidence.
  • What’s considered in telecare assessments?:  Nearly all (92 percent) agreed that a key assessment included the user’s ability to move around, their memory status, the person’s ability to communicate, and their daily routines. Flipping the script, “40% of respondents said that their local authority’s telecare assessment focused on what it was hoped would be achieved through using telecare.”
  • Who are the assessors, and is assessment always required?(more…)

What it takes to make telehealth really work

In line with my fellow editor, forgive this editor engaging in a little nostalgia – going back to 2006, when the Whole System Demonstrator was a still a wonderful idea, before the competing forces of academia and management consultancy put short-term financial gain before long term patient outcome improvement. Those were the days when we genuinely believed that recording vital signs was what it was all about.

Move on nine years and it’s clear from the American Heart Association review referred to in this column recently, and subsequent articles, that one key success factor is drip-fed education. To quote:

“The amount of information that must be conveyed and the support that is necessary to counsel and motivate individuals to engage in behaviors to prevent CVD are far beyond what can be accomplished in the context of face-to-face clinical consultations or through traditional channels such as patient education leaflets,” the researchers say. “Mobile technologies have the potential to overcome these limitations and to transform the delivery of health-related messages and ongoing interventions targeting behavior change.”

This is underlined by a recent study of attempting to control hypertension using just text messaging, which was far from an unqualified success.

Another major driver of course is cost saving, as demonstrated by (more…)