Getting the message about assistive technology and telecare: new guidance

John Woolham is Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London. (592 words)

Last week I was invited to speak at the launch of ‘Help at Home – use of assistive technology got older people’ a review of current research evidence published by the National Institute for Health Research Dissemination Centre. My presentation discussed some of the findings from research I’d done last year as part of the NIHR School for Social Care Research funded UTOPIA project, which gets a mention in the review.

This review is timely and welcome. There has been considerable investment by local authorities in assistive technology and telecare at a time of unrelenting austerity. The research evidence to support this investment offers mixed messages, and local authority commissioners don’t have access to research findings, or even if they did, the time to read them. Worse, at least some of the information about telecare’s impact that is accessible is misleading. Local authorities are also under pressure: increasing demand for care and support, particularly from growing numbers of older people, and cuts to adult social care budgets that are unprecedented in their scale.

Is assistive technology and telecare the solution? Local authorities are keen to use it to promote independence, keep people living safely in their own homes and to reduce burdens facing family carers, which will, of course, also save money. These are all worthy objectives, but as the review suggests, more likely to be achieved by local authorities that pay good attention to the infrastructure within which assistive technology is used, rather than just the devices themselves.

The review makes the important point that much research in this field to-date appears to have focused on ‘high end digital technology’ rather than evaluating the impact of more basic technologies to help with everyday life; and more focus on the development of prototype technologies than real world testing. There are also some real challenges laid out for local authorities or other organisations that provide telecare services. For example, it reflects concerns by older people, highlighted in one international study that technology will be used as a substitute for hands on care. This is precisely what is happening in many local authorities in England at the present time. Another challenge from research is the suggestion that assessment and installation are seen as sequential one-off events (‘plug and play’) when getting the best out of it means seeing these as on-going processes, and that even simple technologies should be seen as a ‘complex intervention’. How does this compare with practices in hard pressed local authority adult social care departments at the present time?

Anyone working in this field or who is using, or thinking of using, technology, should find this report contains valuable insights, even if some of them are challenging. Research reviews can be dry-as-dust, of interest only to the scholarly or the assiduous and with little of value to care professionals. This review is readable and relevant. It offers clear summaries of current research evidence and there are also clear messages about what needs to happen for telecare to make an effective, optimal contribution towards the care and support of older people. It deserves to be widely read and for key messages to be addressed in practice.

John Woolham is Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London. John’s presentation from the day.

The author’s own work, cited here, is independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research School for Social Care Research. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and not necessarily those of the NIHR/SSCR, NHS, the National Institute for Health Research or the Department of Health and Social Care.

 

Letter from Budapest

Ágnes Turnpenny is a Research Associate at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London. (564 words)

On March 13-14 I attended the conference Social and Technological Innovations – The Participation of Persons with Disabilities during the Hungarian presidency of the Visegrad Group. The Visegrad Group (or V4) is an intergovernmental cooperation between Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Originally established after the fall of the iron curtain in 1991, it aims to promote cooperation and mutual learning based on shared legacies and common challenges in the context of political and socio-economic transformation. An important milestone was reached when the V4 countries (alongside four other post-communist countries) joined the European Union in 2004. In recent years the emphasis on ‘shared values’ has become stronger as the four countries have shifted towards more populist or openly authoritarian regimes. Continue reading

Telecare webinar for Research in Practice for Adults at Dartington Hall

John Woolham is Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit in the Policy Institute at King’s. John leads a seminar on Wednesday 21 February 2018: Telecare for older people: are we getting the best out of it? (1,347 words)

Read the report: The UTOPIA project. Using Telecare for Older People In Adult social care: The findings of a 2016-17 national survey of local authority telecare provision for older people in England.

RiPfA, and its sister organisation, Research in Practice (RiP) work primarily with local authorities to encourage the use of evidence based practice. As someone who has a local authority background and has always been keen on promoting the use of good quality evidence, the opportunity to take part in a RiPfA organised event wasn’t one to pass up on.  It was also the first time I’d led a webinar. It’s definitely odd being in what’s effectively a studio, with a computer screen containing a clock (so you don’t overrun) your power point presentation, and a video of you as a ‘talking head’ – pretty much the same thing as participants see. You can’t see them of course, but they can send you messages.  What could possibly go wrong? Well, quite a lot, actually. The fact that it didn’t owed much to the skills of Leo Heinl from RiPfA who managed the technology. Leo is a fellow ‘biker too, so we talked motorcycles a bit, but that’s another story. Continue reading

At the German Society of Gerontology and Geriatrics

Nicole SteilsNicole Steils is a Research Associate at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit in the Policy Institute at King’s College London. In September she presented findings of the UTOPIA (Using Telecare with Older People In Adult Social Care) study to colleagues at the German Society of Gerontology and Geriatrics, sections III and IV, conference in Fulda, Germany. (854 words)

This conference was held at Fulda University of Applied Sciences in Germany. The theme of the two-day conference was ‘Heterogeneity of Age(ing)’. Around 150 delegates attended.

Two keynote presentations started the academic content of the conference. Martina Brandt reported findings on intergenerational care and social policy in the European context based on data from the Survey of Health, Ageing & Retirement in Europe (SHARE) and how various care systems inform the growing social inequalities in giving and receiving care. As the UK was not part of the SHARE project, I was not able to directly learn about similarities and differences between the UK and other European countries. The second keynote was by Hürrem Tezcan-Güntekin who discussed research methods and findings from the German Age Survey, arguing that research in gerontology needs more ‘diversity sensitive’ approaches. Continue reading

Use of Assistive Technology and telecare in Germany – visiting the ‘independent living centre’ exhibition in Frankfurt am Main

Nicole SteilsNicole Steils is a Research Associate at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit in the Policy Institute at King’s College London. As part of the UTOPIA (Using Telecare with Older People In Adult Social Care) study, Nicole Steils travelled to Frankfurt am Main, Germany, to visit and explore the ‘independent living centre’ exhibition at Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences. (637 words)

Once a month this exhibition is open to the public. An expert from the university and a representative from a disability aid federation guide people through the independent living centre and explain the different exhibits and installations. I was one of about 25 people who visited on the day. On other days the exhibition is used as part of the training of the 3,200 students from the Faculty of Health and Social Work as well as students from other health professional training programmes.

Covering 150 square meters (1,615 square feet) the exhibition consists of various products, designs and technological solutions aiming to support people to live in their own home and to aid mobility in and outside the home. The exhibition also shows examples of products aiming to assist family carers or paid staff. In addition, our two guides showed us some simple DIY solutions for sometimes very costly products on the open market. Continue reading

Interactive technologies and games – what relevance do they have for social care?

John WoolhamJohn Woolham is Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit in the Policy Institute at King’s. (856 words)

There’s a saying, apparently, amongst actors: never work with children or animals. For academics, one might add children, animals and robots—if one of the presentations I recently attended was anything to go by—but I’ll come to that.

The conference, known as I-TAG, (Interactive Technologies and Games) was held in Nottingham and organised by colleagues from Nottingham Trent University. I don’t know anything about robotics or computer technology (in fact, anyone who knows me will attest to my cack-handedness at anything even vaguely IT related). I am, though, very interested in exploring how electronic assistive technologies and telecare can help people who need social care to maintain independence and quality of life; and because I recently became Deputy Editor of the Journal of Assistive Technologies (soon to be re-named the Journal of Enabling Technologies) I went along for one day of this two day conference to find out more about ITAG, and to invite anyone doing interesting work to consider publishing with us. Continue reading

What are the prospects for using telecare for older people?

John WoolhamJohn Woolham is Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit. (500 words)

On 9 March, I spoke in a webinar lecture for Oxford Academic Health Science Network. This network brings together universities, industry and the NHS throughout the Thames Valley region to improve health and prosperity in our region through rapid clinical innovation adoption. One strand of this network is devoted to a dementia clinical network and I was invited to speak by Dr Rupert McShane, a Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist at Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, who leads this network. Continue reading