Technology changing lives

10 June 2015

Report from SCIE’s roundtable event

“You don’t have to get specialist stuff. You just have to look at the problems, think logically, and experiment to find the solutions.”

Keith Spink, carer and senior digital developer, SCIE

A recent roundtable event looked at how technology can play its part in improving life for people who use services, carers, providers and commissioners. It was run by SCIE and the Department of Health.

Areas covered in the discussion included: how it is important to embrace technology but not to get overwhelmed by it; how the digital world can help to create social inclusion; and how you can use technology to create a vision and case for change.

On the last point, delegates concluded that it’s important to start by thinking about the problem you are trying to solve, not about a specific form of technology. Then it’s important to think through how you are going to solve the problem, using an experimental process, with technology, to find the solution that works for you. It’s important not get caught up in thinking about the technology itself.

Delegates agreed that it’s important to develop a strong business case for investment in technology; and to educate commissioners about technology through, for example, the use of independent technology advisors or a website of examples of technology in action. Everyone agreed that technology must complement – not replace – personal care

Access to information online – including personal health and care records – was also a major theme for the day. SCIE’s Chair, Lord Michael Bichard, said:

I recently discovered a quite shocking statistic: 84 per cent of adults use the internet, but only two per cent of the population report any digitally enabled transaction with the NHS. That is an absolutely astonishing figure and one which we should be spending a lot of time looking at. The potential of technology to transform how we deliver health and social care really is immense and also to provide the integrated, personalised and supported care that is envisaged in the Care Act

Jon Rouse is Director General, Social Care, Local Government and Care Partnerships, Department of Health. Jon said:

“We are at the very start of the journey that will enable us to use technology to transform the quality of personalised care. The Care Act provides a framework of rights and duties on which we can challenge the market to bring forward new solutions. This report maps out some of the road ahead.”

Martha Lane Fox, CBE, Cross-bench Peer and co-founder of said:

To quote Aaron Swartz, the computer engineer who created Reddit, “It’s not okay not to understand the internet anymore.” I think that is absolutely true of our leaders and legislators. I am trying to think of interesting and imaginative ways that we can encourage them all to understand it. Understanding it is not taking an iPad to meetings.

Keith and his Dad

Keith Spink has worked at SCIE since August 2006, technically developing and managing SCIE’s web services. Keith has the rare genetic eye disorder Aniridia, and has been visually impaired since birth. Keith has been the main carer for his father since February 2013 when dementia was suspected. Keith gave a presentation at the roundtable event where he talked about how he discovered that the best way to find technological solutions was to turn to Amazon and Google. Delegates agreed that you don’t need to invest in expensive, specialist technology. Simple equipment and technology can make a difference.

Keith spoke at the event and said:

Before I knew it I had installed the following: Talking motion sensors and personalised recorded messages that call Dad to the toilet, radio or front door; a cheap timer plug with a mains-powered talking motion sensor; and a personalised recorded message tells Dad to go back to bed if he tries to walk around during the night. I got them all on Amazon. Importantly, I bought different types to see what was the most efficient. This is so important to me and Dad, what I’ve been able to achieve is to provide Dad with more independence, dignity and, dare I say it, happiness, than he would have otherwise have had.

About the roundtable events

In early 2015, SCIE arranged a series of roundtable discussions exploring how to improve care and support at a time of growing demand, demographic change and financial constraint. This is the report from the social care and technology discussion which was organised jointly with the Department of Health. This roundtable has also helped inform the thinking of the National Information Board.

The other sessions covered:

  • Community-led care and support
  • Leading the Care Act
  • Health and wellbeing boards (jointly with The King’s Fund)

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