Site navigation

Comment | Misconceptions vs Reality on the Vital Move to Digital Telecare

Digital Telecare for Scottish Local Government

,

digital telecare

Following our interview with Digital Office CDO Martyn Wallace, the organisation discusses some of the misconceptions about the transition to digital telecare.

With only four years until the existing analogue telephone network services are completely switched off as the UK’s telecommunications infrastructure is upgraded solely to digital connectivity, telecommunications providers are already replacing analogue phone lines with digital equivalents.

This means that as early as 2023, it will no longer be possible for citizens to purchase an analogue phone service from the telecommunications industry and by 2025, they will have fully migrated to a digital equivalent for all users.

The Telecommunications Industry will not wait for telecare service providers to fully prepare themselves. They will be left behind and as a result service users’ will be at risk of receiving an unreliable service.

Scotland’s telecare service providers including health and social care partnerships, housing associations and many other organisations who use analogue connectivity to deliver their services, will need to be upgraded inevitably. Some may have already started their transition journey however, those who have not should now be starting to feel the pressure to do so.

Previously, there was major uncertainty of what the journey to digital telecare would look like which has caused key stakeholders including telecare service providers and service users to have misconceptions about the transition.

Digital Telecare for Scottish Local Government has been working closely with telecare service providers across the country to identify requirements needed to ensure a smooth and safe transition to digital service for citizens in receipt of telecare in their home environments.

The team have recently issued a National Briefing Document which helps to address misconceptions by ensuring key stakeholders have the correct knowledge and support to transition to digital telecare safely, securely, and prior to the analogue network switch off.

What are the key misconceptions on the transition to digital telecare?

Misconception: Telecommunication Network Providers will migrate to digital by 2025.

Reality: In fact, with only four years until the existing analogue telephone network services are completely switched off as the UK’s telecommunications infrastructure is upgraded solely to digital connectivity, telecommunications providers are already replacing analogue phone lines with digital equivalents.

This means that as early as 2023, it will no longer be possible for citizens to purchase an analogue phone service from the telecommunications industry and by 2025, they will have fully migrated to a digital equivalent for all users.

The new digital telephony network will not support analogue equipment safely and securely. If an existing telecare alarm is connected to a digital line, it may not work reliably, or may not work at all, and emergency calls may be delayed, or fail to connect.

Misconception: Moving to digital telecare will increase cybersecurity risks but trying to understand and mitigate against all conceivable risks is too hard.

Reality: The reality is, moving to digital solutions will mean new risks, especially in terms of cybersecurity, as analogue systems weren’t at risk from online threats. Despite this, with proper planning and assessment, these risks can be understood, minimised and contingencies can be put in place for risks that can’t be removed entirely.

Telecare service provider’s data protection procedures through their Data Protection Officer and security procurement procedures through their IT colleagues, all in conjunction with the national programme, will help to explain and mitigate these risks realising service delivery and cost benefits through collaborative working.

Misconception: Telecommunication Providers will take care of the move to digital telecare.

Reality: Actually, telecommunication providers’ responsibility only extends so far. Although there is a duty to ensure that any actions they take will not adversely affect service users, most have balanced this by stating in their terms and conditions that the service user takes responsibility for any alarms on their line.

Regardless of this, the responsibility of telecommunication providers stops at the media box/phone socket/router. Any additional equipment that needs to be plugged into these devices is outside of their purview. Telecare service providers will need to ensure that the delivery of their service is working end to end.

To support this, the Digital Telecare team have developed a monthly Migration Issues Reporting Programme which allows telecare service providers to raise any switchover related issues they are experiencing and these are escalated to Ofcom.

Misconception: It is difficult for service users to switch to a digital service.

Reality: The reality is that it’s very easy for service users to switch to digital solutions. In fact, there is evidence some are already switching without realising and others are unsure whether service changes they have requested have meant they have been switched to a digital service. For example, a citizen may upgrade their TV or broadband package, but not be aware that this change will include an upgrade from analogue to digital telephony.

Service users can either opt for self-installation of their equipment, or their telecare service provider will arrange for an installation of the new service, making it easy as possible to switch. When moving to a fibre broadband package, certain combined-media upgrades (i.e. Virgin Media Box) or the latest deals from the likes of Sky can all mean that digital migration has taken place with minimal work done inside the house in many cases.

Recommended

In addition to the above, new build retirement properties that are currently being built or planned will come with digital communications as standard, often with access points in hidden spaces such as under stair cupboards. Again this means that service users risk being migrated to digital services with minimal consultation or awareness.

These built-in digital services also mean that some alarm systems may struggle to gain a signal if installed in out of the way locations so additional aerials or alternative options may be required.

Misconception: Telecare alarms will fail due to a loss of power to routers.

Reality: This isn’t an issue for alarms on the old phone networks. When power fails, these traditional analogue alarms have a 24-hour battery back-up and phone lines still work. However, when analogue alarms run on digital networks, they will rely on routers, plugged in at home, which will stop working during or shortly after a power cut. This also means that 999 calls will not be possible from fixed-line phones when power is lost.

Telecommunication providers have responded differently to this critical issue but their proposals are limited. Digital Telecare for Scottish Local Government will continue to monitor this as it progresses.

It is vital that telecare service providers start their journey to digital telecare now to ensure they transition effectively, prior to the analogue telephony switchover.

Digital Telecare for Scottish Local Government has recently launched a brand new National Communications Campaign as part of their continued support and partnership with Local Authorities, Health and Social Care Partnerships and the wider TEC sector across Scotland to develop a ‘once for Scotland solution’.

This new campaign will help to raise awareness of key messages and point stakeholders in the direction of resources that will ensure that no user is left behind and that the ‘once for Scotland’ approach is genuinely inclusive.

For more information on the transition to digital telecare, please visit telecare.digitaloffice.scot.

Digital Telecare for Scottish Local Government

Latest News

Cybersecurity Editor's Picks Trending Articles
Cybersecurity Data Trending Articles
%d bloggers like this: