The care homes sector is worth around £15.9 billion a year in the UK. There are around 5,500 providers operating 11,300 homes for over 410,000 residents.
But care is not just big business. It is also a critical part of our national infrastructure and as the recent financial worries at Four Seasons Care show, the sector is feeling the strain.
Like many western countries the UK is faced with a rapidly ageing population. The number of over 75s forecast to increase by 2 million between 2014-2024. The reality is that in the UK it now costs three times more to provide for a 75 year old than a 30 year old and it’s only getting more costly. In fact so-called “health inflation” has reached a staggering 6%. Social care now equates to over 55% of local authority budgets; driven by the compounding effect of higher demand for health services and higher expectations amongst citizens.
It is now imperative that every stakeholder sees ageing as a lifelong process and that the domiciliary care sector, and the way it is funded, has to continually evolve and adapt. If the care sector is to manage these costs it has to find innovative ways of reducing waste and inefficiency, tackle new and evolving issues of mental health and wellness without compromising quality or contact time.
While we talk about the need for waste reduction, we also need to balance this with the increased financial challenges of the rising epidemic of social isolation and loneliness. The focus of AgeTech must therefore be on developing innovative ways to enhance the quality of the contact seniors that have with their families, carers, care professionals and society whilst reducing the administrative burden.
But, after decades of austerity and “efficiency savings” where can AgeTech look to cut waste? Here are some examples identified by the sector:
- Reducing variations in staff practices
- Improving the efficiency of data recording
- Better managing medication and reducing overprescribing
- Reducing readmissions
- Using telehealth to reduce travel time, improve compliance and record keeping and reduce social isolation
Kraydel’s TV video-calling hub is one of the ways AgeTech is starting to transform care provision. The impact of connecting the senior, family and carer via the TV isn’t just about saving money (although that is a byproduct), it’s also about tackling social isolation to improve the life of the senior, which in turn can reduce costs through lowering readmissions and mental health treatment. In the near future we envisage a system where seniors can access TeleHealth via the TV to speak to their specialist doctor or care professional; appointments that could otherwise cause stress, risk and transportation costs if they had to travel away from their home.
Why the TV? Kraydel’s research shows that adoption of smartphones in this user group falls away from the general population due to smartphone design not catering for the process of aging (e.g. finger tremor, small screen visibility, dry finger, etc).
Kraydel’s vision is a system where carers can store digital patient notes on a secure cloud, accessible by the full care team in a way that enables wellness and lifestyle data to follow seamlessly between the senior in their home to their primary and secondary care providers. This would all be secured and accessible to authorised individuals via the seniors TV. This would not only improve early diagnosis, prevent addressable illness and in some instances reduce the need for costly treatments. Imagine the benefits when a paramedic turns up to treat a case and has secure access to the patient’s notes through their TV.
And why should video contact stop at speaking to your doctor? Seniors are not only increasingly suffering from social isolation but also social exclusion - if you’re not tech savvy and too frail to regularly leave your home then you also face being excluded from every aspect of day-to-day life; from civil issues to banking - and in the process you are losing the right to choose. Imagine a very near future where seniors can video-call their bank or local council from the comfort of their sofa; or where they could provide feedback to the CQC or their care providers compliance team all through the click of a button.
For residential care homes this “sofa-to-sofa” video calling via the TV can reduce intrusive check ins, instead allowing for a centralised care control room with direct Kraydel connection to patients and sensors providing 24/7 health data.
The power of remote contact between senior and carer isn’t just about saving money but is a major byproduct. Take travel for instance; a medication reminder could be conducted and recorded via the TV - rather than a carer travelling for as much as 20 minutes in each direction to attend a short 10 minute house visit. This could now be done more efficiently remotely without impacting on the senior’s care. Reducing unnecessary travel saves staffing time, decreases carbon emissions and saves money on fuel and vehicle maintenance costs as well as reducing congestion on roads and demand for car parking spaces. Those are immediate cost savings and the quality of care doesn’t suffer.
Inside the home, IoT-connecting smart sensors, assisted living tech and rapid diagnostics to the Kraydel hub and providing access via a single digital dashboard will transform how we leverage health, wellness and behavioural data. We need to build trust around data and how it can be utilised for predictive care. This in turn leads to earlier care intervention, enabling prevention which in turn reduces cost. But in order to meet the opportunities, AgeTech needs to be more than just functional, it needs to become an integral part of the seniors life and demonstrate robustness and reliability.
The rapid expansion of AgeTech illustrates the urgent need to create positive health outcomes for patients, reduce cost within care system but it still requires the care sector to embrace change. To truly reach its full potential we need to demonstrate the value of emerging technology and how it adds value to the patient care, not just reduces cost.