The UK’s social care ecosystem is in crisis. Some 1.3 million older people request care each year, yet only 700,000 receive it. The result is that the biggest contribution to care is by informal carers – typically friends and family – whose care value is estimated at a staggering £140 billion. Put simply, this is not a sustainable model for social care.
A better understanding of the variety of care needs and how these can be met by society is crucial. In 2020 we invested £20 million in the Advanced Care Research Centre (ACRC), which in the short and long term will provide publicly available data that will help to shape the care ecosystem of the future.
Yet forward-thinking businesses are already making significant steps in showing us what future care will look like. In our Caring for Britain report, we discover that the care ecosystem of the future will be based on technology, and below we’ve highlighted just some of the ways it’s already happening.
To predict illness onset and enable early, preventative treatment, Current Health provides wearable, ‘invisible’ tech, helping to transition healthcare from the hospital to the home. The technology collects and uses data on things like respiration rate, oxygen saturation, mobility, step count and pulse rate, monitoring an individual’s health 24/7, as well as developing software-driven, at-home therapeutics for diseases such as heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This model allows the individual to remain in their own home, reducing the risk of ‘clinicalising’ their living environment while taking pressure off the NHS. This care model has already shown a near-90% reduction in hospitalisations in one elderly population.
The number of people needing care homes is expected to double in the next 15 years, yet available care home places dropped by 10% in 2019. Lifted is a home-care service supported by app-based technology that allows individuals to arrange home care for loved ones, get updates when carers arrive, check that tasks have been completed and receive updates about the mood of their loved one, all from their phone, providing crucial peace of mind for family members.
Birdie, meanwhile, offers a similar service for companies providing home care. Through this app, data about a carer’s visit, from photos of the lunch prepared to medication taken, is uploaded to the cloud. With this information, the care company can track and manage an individual’s care journey and assesses whether their care plan needs to be altered. Birdie integrates with other technology, like motion sensors, which send crucial data to the cloud and can flag possible medical concerns – frequent trips to the bathroom, for example, could signify an infection which, when discovered earlier, could be treated within 24 hours. The aim is that this technology will lower hospital admissions by 20–30%.
There are so many different types of care that finding the right one for you or a loved one can be overwhelming. Care Sourcer is an online care marketplace that compares care homes and home-care services across the UK, connecting the people looking for care with the people providing it. With 1.2 million people missing out on the care they need, while 25% of care homes are struggling financially, Care Sourcer offers the chance to rebalance the supply and demand of care. (Read our interview with the Care Sourcer CEO here.)
Crucially, this technology is not replacing the human interaction that is so important to our ageing population. Instead, technology is being used to facilitate better and more personalised care, placing the elderly at the heart of society – which is exactly where they should be.