Now is the Time for Proactive Services
February 25, 2022 4:33 pm
Most care providers will be familiar with how telecare works in the home, where older people are provided an alarm button that can be pressed to initiate a call to an emergency response centre. These reactive services have been the backbone of Technology Enabled Care for many years. However, far fewer people understand what proactive services can do and how they work.
The theme of this year’s TSA ITEC conference couldn’t be a more appropriate launch pad for proactive care. ‘Unlocking personalised outcomes’ is not just an aspiration, but an achievable goal now that the technology exists to support it.
Something that almost everyone can agree on is that a shift towards being more person centric in the planning and delivery of care is to be welcomed and encouraged. One of the keys to achieving that goal will surely be to understand the different needs of each and every person as an individual. A more complete picture of the person is required than can be gained from just carer and family visits the and self-reported views from older people. All of those are vital, but our understanding of the care needs of an older person can be enhanced by the use of technologies that can help build a picture of the daily routine of an older person and look for significant and meaningful changes in that routine. That is the role that Connected Care Platforms can play. But what are they, how do they work and what can they report on?
Over the past few months, I have been working with representatives of Local Authorities, care providers and technology companies in one of the TSA’s Special Interest Groups (SIG 11) to help build an understanding of what proactive care services are and how they can support older people. We recognised immediately that a lack of a common language was a barrier to understanding by anyone who wanted to commission proactive services. There was some understanding of what was meant by the term proactive services but no clear agreement. The first outputs of that group will be published by the TSA at ITEC but they will include a standard definition of proactive services, of Connected Care, of what Connected Care Platforms can do and how they work.
All Connected Care Platforms work in a similar way; they use internet enabled or smart devices and sensors placed around a home to generate data that can give care providers and family members a view of what is happening in the home of the older person.
That view can cover one or more of four different elements of life in the home:
- The environment the person is living in (for example the temperature in the rooms)
- The behaviour of the person (for example what time they got out of bed)
- The physiological wellbeing of the person (for example how often they use the kettle or microwave)
- The safety and security of the person (for example of their doors are locked)
Combining all four elements together gives a much more complete picture of the life of an older person and can often provide insight into hidden care needs or highlight changes in the life of a person that should be looked at.
The data from the devices is normally captured by a small hub device that then sends the data to a cloud-based system which can analyse and understand it before sending it on to carers. The sensors and devices themselves can be either wearable or passive, sitting in the background collecting data without the older person needing to interact with them. Many of the devices are wireless, sending their data to the hub using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or other wireless connection methods.
The technology behind proactive services is less important than the outcomes it supports though. By building a more complete picture of what is happening in the home and then looking for meaningful changes, proactive services enable families and carers to take pre-emptive action, to stop something going wrong before it happens. These are the early steps on the journey that proactive services are taking towards the prediction and prevention of the kinds of issues that can result in order people going to hospital and ultimately to losing their independence.
If there is one common goal shared by all the providers of proactive services, it is to support older people to live safe and well in their own homes for as long as possible: that would be the best possible personal outcome to unlock.