Telecare services in Scotland are currently faced with their biggest opportunity and their biggest challenge since they began providing critical services to vulnerable users more than 30 years ago.
As early as 2023, it will no longer be possible for citizens to purchase an analogue phone service from many of the main telecommunication providers.
In addition, all telecommunication providers expect to have fully completed the migration of their analogue networks over to a digital equivalent by 2025.
This transformation brings a number of operational and strategic challenges to a telecare sector in Scotland which is already overstretched and attempting to manage rapidly increasing demand and complexity, along with a range of socio-economic pressures.
However, this digital switchover also brings a once in a generation opportunity to modernise, improve and shift the sector and the thinking from a reactive, to a proactive delivery model, enhancing outcomes for citizens, improving efficiencies, and redesigning services around the user.
This month’s article with the Digital Telecare for Scottish Local Government team raises awareness of the benefits and opportunities of a digital telecare service, why it should be viewed as an essential service for telecare service providers and why the transition to a digital telecare service in Scotland should continue to be prioritised. What are the benefits and opportunities of digital telecare?
Digital telecare can support improved quality, reliability and provide enhanced services which are tailored to meet each citizen’s specific needs. These improvements include: faster call connection speeds, better audio quality, increased resilience and reliability, the ability to self-install devices and the potential to link consumer technology such as wearables, mobile phones and other smart devices to the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC).
Greater levels of flexibility can be offered by digital telecare systems in how calls are routed, which provides the option for telecare service providers to support each other if one is experiencing a particular spike in calls. It also enables further flexibility with the option for remote working as call takers do not need to be located in the same building as the ARC Equipment.
Improved Device Management
Without the need for an analogue phone-line, the set-up is quick and digital systems offer more efficient processes for updates and configuration. This simpler set up process not only provides the opportunity for citizens to self-install alarm units but also means that the devices can be updated and reconfigured remotely.
The digital systems also have sufficient bandwidth to incorporate cameras which could provide opportunities around video consultation and other applications.
Digital telecare systems are more reliable than their analogue equivalents and offer a real-time overview of device statuses and connectivity which increases citizen safety.
GSM devices have the ability to move between networks when signal strength is not sufficient, and live monitoring of devices enables quicker fault detection, and these issues can be escalated to operational teams immediately via configuration of device management platforms (DMPs).
This is a significant improvement on the current analogue network, which is known to fail regularly although both telecare service providers and citizens may be unaware of this due to a lack of reliable data.
More Efficient Delivery Models
Telecare services can be delivered more efficiently with digital telecare as it allows the automation of routine administrative tasks which would facilitate more effective use of staff resource and a shift to proactive services.
This is extremely beneficial as it would increase overall service capacity, allow better focus on user-facing tasks, free up time for outbound calls to promote health and well-being advice or activities which ultimately improves staff job satisfaction and citizen experience.
Digital telecare provides the opportunity to integrate citizen’s devices and wearables. This integration would unlock a range of benefits including reducing equipment expenditure costs and increase scalability, whilst simultaneously allowing citizens to access their service using a device they are familiar with and reduce the stigma of traditional telecare alarms.
Integration and prevention
The potential for open data shared platforms and predictive analytics which comes from digital telecare would enable greater service integration and power whole systems approach.
Seamless and instant sharing of citizen information between services would empower partnership working and support a shift towards a more proactive, preventative and person-centred model.
This includes the ability to automatically predict indicators of a health risk and take preventative steps, lowering hospital admissions.
Digital telecare can support telecare service providers to deliver more effective and streamlined operations, providing efficiencies around quicker installation times and the ability for users to ‘self-install’ devices. It also allows the opportunity to remotely re-programme a high numbers of user devices instantly via device management platforms, potentially avoiding the need for a face to face visit to multiple locations.
In addition, business continuity arrangements can be reviewed to explore opportunities around the flexibility that digital offers.
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The switch to digital telecare provides a range of benefits and creates an opportunity to redesign services around the user and ensure telecare service providers can fully exploit the capabilities of their upgraded telecare solution to improve efficiency, resilience, reduce cost and enhance the range of services offered to citizens.
The National Briefing Document launched by the Digital Telecare for Scottish Local Government team provides additional detail of the benefits and opportunities of a digital telecare service, why it should be viewed as an essential service and why the transition to digital telecare service in Scotland should continue to be prioritised.
For more information on the transition to digital telecare, please visit telecare.digitaloffice.scot.