Digital transition and reducing the disruption of services

22-Jun-2022

In this article, Gary Steen, chief technology officer at Tunstall Healthcare, discusses the NHS and social care digital transition, the impact that this will have on service users, and how providers can avoid any disruption in service provision to vulnerable people

The digital transformation of healthcare services brings a once-in-a-generation opportunity to modernise and improve services

The digital transformation of healthcare services brings a once-in-a-generation opportunity to modernise and improve services

Digital products and services that have evolved from obscurity over the past 20 years have become indispensable domestic fixtures, and this evolution extends to our health, housing, and care services.

Whether it’s the use of virtual care platforms, remote monitoring solutions, communication tools, digital apps, or sophisticated data platforms; services are entering a new phase of digital maturity.

More than 1.7 million people are at risk of being cut off from vital technology enabled care services (TECS) as the Government progresses towards the 2025 deadline to switch off the UK’s analogue copper telephone network system.

However, this presents a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to revolutionise our services and capitalise on the benefits of digitisation.

Understanding the digital transition

Currently, most people have analogue phones that are charged by plugging them in directly into a socket on the wall.

As we see demand for technology such as laptops, tablets, and smart devices increasing, the UK’s communications infrastructure requires rapid change as features become outdated and unfit for purpose.

The digital transition brings a once-in-a-generation opportunity to modernise, improve, and shift the sector and its thinking from a reactive to a pro-active delivery model

Globally, we all have an increased reliance on internet-based or digital services, and are benefiting significantly, whether it be through more choice, value, greater availability, or convenience.

And this has resulted in our national telecoms infrastructure providers upgrading their networks, gradually replacing analogue lines with digital ones, which will require phones to be connected to an analogue telephone adapter (ATA) box or router provided by the user’s communications provider.

This modernisation will increase system capacity and capability, as well as provide a foundation for future technological innovations.

The digital transition brings a once-in-a-generation opportunity to modernise, improve, and shift the sector and its thinking from a reactive to a pro-active delivery model, enhancing outcomes for citizens, improving efficiencies, and redesigning services around the user.

The transition should provide a linear and more-robust infrastructure, replacing an ageing system and making it more connected and reliable.

The benefits of digitisation

Digital telecare is fast becoming the industry standard, offering significant benefits over traditional telecare technology.

A health and care system fit for the 21st Century must have digital innovation at its core.

To meet this demand the system must effectively transition and ensure minimal impact on service users.

Through innovation and the digital transition we can shape a system that is better able to serve people in such a fast-changing world

Digital innovation can improve citizen experience, support better quality and greater reliability of service provision, and provide enhanced services which are tailored to meet specific needs.

Through innovation and the digital transition we can shape a system that is better able to serve people in such a fast-changing world.

Digitisation has the potential to transform care provision.

From a robust infrastructure that is more reliable, faster calls that are carried over the internet rather than a physical wire, to greater capacity to cope with increased demands for broadband and WiFi; the opportunities to more easily place citizens at the heart of decision making are limitless.

The current challenges

The transition to digital presents both opportunities and challenges to health, housing, and social care providers, and citizens.

Digital telecare requires huge investment by service providers at a time when funding is increasingly restricted.

Phasing investment means that providers can focus on what needs to be changed now, moving on to replace or upgrade other equipment in due course.

Many end users are unaware of the upgrade and providers need to ensure they are not only prepared for the digital future in terms of equipment and services, but also in making sure their service users understand the impact of the switch on them in order to avoid any anxiety or distress.

Phasing investment means that providers can focus on what needs to be changed now, moving on to replace or upgrade other equipment in due course

Technology has historically been seen as additional to service delivery, rather than a means of transforming models of care, leading to difficulties in integrating technology effectively.

In some cases, there is still a misapprehension that technology is a replacement for human contact, rather than an enabler for better services.

Therefore, cultural change is required, which, in turn, needs early engagement.

Preventing service disruption

The move from PSTN to digital must not be underestimated. It doesn’t just affect the telecare industry, but all industries as they understand the power of digital and what that means.

Service providers still have significant time to prepare their upgrading of hardware and software.

As many digital solutions are not yet mature and are likely to be superseded as technology advances, the option remains to choose shorter-term hybrid solutions. This will facilitate phased investment and implementation of robust, proven solutions that fit within digital strategies.

By working together, telecare technology providers can ensure health, housing and social care professionals fully understand the scope and scale of the digital challenges that may be presented and can implement an effective strategy to deliver digital solutions at pace.

By offering end-to-end integrated and interoperable solutions that are underpinned by ongoing technical support, the impacts of the digital transition can be mitigated on end users.

Looking ahead

The digital transition is an opportunity to create a clearer and consistent approach to the delivery of care.

The latest generation of digital technologies opens up a new world of possibilities when it comes to the provision of health and care, changing lives, and transforming services.

There is still a misapprehension that technology is a replacement for human contact, rather than an enabler for better services

It is essential for providers to audit their services, implement rigorous testing, and devise strategies that prevent disruption for end users and provide robust and secure solutions.

Digitisation is set to touch every corner of the health and social care sector. And while technology has sometimes been viewed as an additional aspect of service delivery, the digital transition must be embedded into delivery for if we are to successfully transform existing models, and to provide more-intelligent solutions and better services.

By offering end-to-end integrated and interoperable solutions that are underpinned by ongoing technical support, the impacts of the digital transition can be mitigated on end users

The transition offers opportunity for improved safety, better service provision, a more-proactive and preventive approach, increased efficiency, and more-integrated services.

And upcoming solutions will provide more-reliable connectivity, better protocol adherence, greater functionality, and encompass lessons learned from other early adopters.

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