Investing in technology is no luxury for adult care departments, says Julia Ross (pictured)
Social care was recently criticised for not keeping good data on learning disability and thus potentially wasting resources on expensive packages of care. There are two conundrums here. The sector is very rich in data; it’s the correct use of technology and analytical solutions that is the real problem. Second, why are we happy to use technology at home and not at work?
Some of the answers lie in the fact that adult social care is bedevilled by a dozen IT systems, most of which do not talk to each other, and management tools that join up just one or two of those systems. And yet there are dynamic and user-friendly solutions, which can extract data from multiple sources and integrate them for analysis at the touch of a button. Southend-on-Sea Council uses such a solution to identify all individual users of health and social care and create costed care pathways .
Making better use of technology to gather data and so evidence outcomes is not a luxury, it’s essential. How else will care managers argue convincingly for future resources and explain spending decisions worth over £500, as the government now requires? It’s like carrying a phone, your address book and the A-Z address finder rather than using your smartphone with GPS which guides you on the journey.
Protecting investment in technology can only be done at the cost of something else. Use of technology solutions have tended to be the sole provenance of performance leads and collecting data has been about making national returns to feed the government beast. Now that the performance measurement culture is being laid to rest, some will no doubt be feeling the chill wind of change. But this would be a mistake. There are two ways forward. One is to convert the traditional job of information manager into a business analyst; the other is to reduce the size of the team and bring in more effective software.
Julia Ross is a former director of social services and now heads the care and health division of data analysis firm PI Benchmark
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This article is published in the 20 January 2011 edition of Community Care under the headline “Let’s make technology work for care”