Industry calls for action on Scottish drive to digitally-integrated care

Delegates and speakers push the agenda on the delivery of digital care services

Industry experts have urged rapid action to make digital healthcare a reality in order to realise the benefits of safer, more-reliable services.

Delegates at theDelivering Scotland's Vision for Integrated Digital Care Conference examined the use of technology to support health and care provision.

It comes as the Scottish government is investing £400m in broadband across the country by 2020, as well as providing £30m for ambitious technology-enabled care (TEC) projects.

Delegates heard how current care-at-home services often rely on the traditional phoneline to connect them to a network of alarm receiving centres that enable the elderly and vulnerable to call for help when required.

We must think innovatively on how we do things and build on digital platforms that have been proven to work

Such ‘analogue technology’ is seen by many to be inefficient and does not realise the potential for truly-person-centred, integrated care that digital technology can provide.

“Technology allows us to speak to our doctor, share measurements such as blood pressure readings, and ask for help from social care providers when we would like,” said Tom Morton, chief executive of digital care platform provider and event host, Communicare247.

“We can achieve technology-enabled independent living now that could create efficiencies and help provide better care.”

He added: “The Scottish government has been at the vanguard of showing how technology can help us address current issues such as caring for people remotely, such as the benefits that can be delivered from telecare alarms for example. But, with digital technology having the power to offer so much, the government, local authorities, integrated boards, suppliers and citizens need to come together to switch from analogue and turn this digital vision into a reality.”

At the conference, delegates heard how Sweden is achieving this vision with two thirds of the country now using digital telecare in the light of large telecoms providers turning off existing analogue, phoneline-based systems.

The same is true in the UK, with some companies pushing for a digital telecommunication switchover by 2025, which would make existing telecare technology obsolete.

The Scottish government is ahead of many countries in addressing this issue and has reviewed the need to make the shift from analogue to digital as part of the drive for integrated care.

A much-awaited report on the next steps for telecare servcies is expected to highlight the fact that the country has too many alarm receiving centres of varying sizes, relying on old technology.

Commissioners need to consider that things such as tech support should be a pre-requisite. It should be included in all service design

Scottish eHealth lead, Eddie Turnbull, told the conference: “We are at a point where we need to move at pace, and change our focus.

“We must think innovatively on how we do things and build on digital platforms that have been proven to work. Digital technology can be the key transformative agent in new ways of providing personalised care.”

Lorraine McMillan, chief executive of East Renfrewshire Council and chairman of the local government digital transformation board, added: “We want digital to help us provide services that are customer-centric and efficient.”

Speaker, Ulf Lindsten of DoroCare explained how the Swedish government was faced with similar pressures several years ago, and chose to make the move to digital on safety grounds.

Fellow speaker, Lee Hampson, of Safe at Home pointed out the significant increase expected in the ageing population, which means that advancing technology is critical to help meet growing demands that will be placed on health and care services.

And, in his presentation, Richard McKinnon, chief executive of social care provider, HumberCare, noted that organisations are still struggling to embed technology in the delivery of care, but that digital systems have been fundamental in helping them provide further, high-quality services to the communities it serves.

“Commissioners need to consider that things such as tech support should be a pre-requisite. It should be included in all service design,” he said.

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