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Research reveals people’s top priorities for technology enabled care

A study examining what people really want from digital care services and devices has identified the nine things they value most, but don’t always get.

Social policy researcher, Dr Sarah Alden, examined over 100 sources of evidence and conducted nearly 50 interviews and focus groups with people, families and unpaid carers, exploring the different ways they use technology to support their lives. 

The research was commissioned by the TEC Action Alliance, a group of around 30 care organisations including the Local Government Association, Care England, Homecare Association and the TEC Services Association (TSA) whose aim is to put the voice of people, families and unpaid carers centre stage when technology enabled care (TEC) services and solutions are developed.

The Alliance commissioned the research for their latest report, ‘Implementing TEC so we can all live gloriously ordinary lives,’ because most previous studies in this area include views from care staff and care organisations, rather than people who draw on care and support themselves. 

The research showed that people want nine main things from technology enabled care:

  • Awareness: To know more about the ways in which technology can meet their needs
  • Independence: Devices and systems that support them to do more for themselves
  • Control: To maintain control over care technology, wherever possible
  • Reassurance: Peace of mind for themselves and their families through connected technology
  • Seamlessness: Technology that is joined-up and compatible with familiar devices
  • Personalisation: Technology to be tailored to their needs and offer them genuine choice
  • Equal decision-making: A say in the design and functionality of their care technology
  • Support: Help, advice and training if they struggle to access or adopt technology 
  • Privacy and security: Reassurance around online safety and autonomy over their data

The TEC Action Alliance is calling on all local authority social care commissioners and housing providers, whenever they procure TEC contracts, to ensure suppliers respond to the nine ‘What people want from TEC’ principles in their bids.

The report also identifies the need for a common language to describe all types of TEC. Currently, commissioners, service providers and suppliers use different terms, often with technical phrases. Replacing this with a set of easy-to-understand definitions, recognised and used by everyone would support more people, families, health and social care professionals to understand and find suitable digital care.

The TEC Action Alliance highlights a missed opportunity around digital care when it comes to people with lower-level needs who aren’t yet on their council’s radar. The report recommends raising awareness of TEC amongst NHS primary care and community services, so GPs, pharmacists and physios can signpost people, early on, to TEC services, so they can self-manage their own health and delay the need for more intensive care and support.

Likewise, the TEC Action Alliance is calling for wider use of quality assurance schemes so people and families can get reassurance that they are purchasing reliable, safe TEC. In addition, the report makes the case for a common TEC evaluation framework so the TEC sector can create a consistent body of evidence about the benefits it delivers.

Alyson Scurfield, CEO of TEC Services Association (TSA) and co-chair of the TEC Action Alliance said: “Over two million people in the UK already use technology enabled care but there is an opportunity to support many more people to live happily and independently at home. We’ll never realise this potential if we don’t ask people what they want from digital care, and then design services and solutions around these ambitions – rather than assuming we know what they want.”

Clenton Farquharson CBE, Chair of Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) and co-chair of the TEC Action Alliance said: “Organisations providing TEC services or manufacturing devices must re-focus on people, their families and unpaid carers. This means co-producing TEC, so it’s shaped by individuals. It also means ensuring TEC is easy to use and seamless, providing support so people feel confident using it. Those basic principles must be followed, right across the sector, so people can live technology-enabled lives.”

Download the TEC Action Alliance Action Paper, ‘Implementing TEC so we can all live gloriously ordinary lives’ here.

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