Mark Raeburn: 7.5 minute read

The cost of understanding the benefits that technology can bring

We all understand how beneficial technology is. The ability to buy nearly anything that we wish for at the touch of a button is no longer science fiction. It is science fact. We are living in an age where, in the average tube journey you can do your weekly shop, speak to your family and catch-up on work. This is no longer the future that was dreamed of, it is here. Technology is a great big pool of possibility in which the brave have invested and receive the benefits.

If technology is here and as readily available as we are saying, then why have those in health and social care not widely invested? If you can save thousands in a year, then what reason would you have to say no? Surely everyone would bite your hand off to invest in something that provided significant savings.

A great idea is nothing if the cost is too high

If the initial cost to invest in the platform, concept or idea is too high, then you cannot hope to convince those with finite budgets to invest. They could see the light, but the risk is too high. To take what little spare they have and invest in something that may not provide ROI for more than a year is too big a risk.

We have all seen the stories of care homes going into administration. There are naturally varying reasons for this happening, but the one that is most common is monetary considerations. The costs associated with running a home are high. From activities and medical care to staffing and catering. Costs are high and the choice of implementing a system that could save money, compared to the guarantee of keeping the money to cover essential costs becomes an easy one.

Here we can see how many ideas fall by the wayside. They don’t make it past the front door as they have not considered the simplest of questions, how much is it? If this does not fit within the budget, then it’s not going to override the duty of care question. By this token, even if the greatest of ideas arrived at the doorstep, it would be rejected over cost considerations and so, how do we move beyond this consideration? 

We can all see the benefits that technology can bring

This is a generalisation. Most people use technology in some shape or form. They can appreciate how it can make our lives easier. Compared with 20 years ago, we have a myriad of options available to us. Our smartphones are powerful supercomputers that are capable of showing real-time video, in addition to being able to manage our banking.

For a new business to find space on your device is a challenge. With so many solutions out there that are already established, people are hesitant to adopt. Why do I need your app when this one does the same thing? This is a key question that is asked and when it comes to caring, simplicity is the answer that screams out.

Many people have created case management solutions. Many have created those that monitor patients and the medication in which they are taking. The problems begin to emerge when these ideas have been created by those without industry knowledge. They have been created without the end-user in mind.

If the seller has managed to get through the front door and the cost has not been a stumbling point, then simplicity is often the next item that is missed. We can all see the benefits that technology can bring but if it is too expensive and too complicated to use, then how will you convince your potential client?

Simple and accessible for all

The majority of us use technology in one way, shape or form. The sources that we consume are relative to everyone as users have differing abilities. Amazon, Facebook and Grocery delivery sites are designed specifically to be as simple to use as possible. This is to their major benefit as the simpler the concept, the more users you can adopt. The same needs to be undertaken for those within health and social care.

Not every worker within health and social care will use technology to an advanced level. You need solutions that are incredibly user friendly. You need platforms that are created for professionals who are under increased pressure every day and have little time. This, of course, is a cliché but health and social care professionals are time-starved. They operate every day with less staff and equipment than they need. Technology can help to offset this but with previous experiments resulting in more chaos than before, you can see where the industry is hesitant.

'Implementation can often be complex; and large scale centralised IT programmes have often been unsuccessful at a huge cost to the taxpayer, with the failed NHS National Programme for IT costing an eye-watering £1.5bn over seven years. Top-down over-centralisation of decision making was considered a major factor in the programme’s failure, but the NHS can also pride itself on a huge number of regional success stories, many of which have been scaled up to benefit huge numbers of patients and clinicians.
Is technology a distraction or salvation for the NHS and Social Care during COVID-19?

There are two sides to this quote. On the one hand, it shows the cost of failed IT projects to the NHS and the other, that, ‘…the NHS can also pride itself on a huge number of regional success stories’. This part of the quote emphasises the antithesis that is technology and health and social care. When done well, it works, saves money and improves efficiency but when not costed well, implemented easily and made easy to administer, huge costs emerge.

Caring for those less fortunate is the over-riding principle

The over-riding principle of those who work in health and social care is care. Each sector cares for those under its protection. They know that technology is a key component but without being able to see the simplicity of the system and the cost savings upfront, you cannot blame them for not adopting technology on mass. A meal for a resident today is more important than a technological solution tomorrow.

This is where suppliers such as ourselves need to ensure that we make our solutions simple and accessible. We work to ensure that costs are greatly reduced and build systems that fill a need. We, as those who work in the industry, need to think of the end-users. It is something that I humbly say, we do well at OLM.

For nearly 30 years we have guided clients through four different generations of technology. We do so in a manner that is appropriate for each client. Everyone we work with has their own story and only by working with them can we make a difference.

In conclusion

We all understand how beneficial technology is. We believe to our core that it will save our clients time and money. We believe that suppliers need to work with their potential customers rather than against them, to create appropriate solutions.

Cost and ease of adoption are two reasons for technology upgrades being rejected. This is understandable as the care of those who are being looked after by the entity in question overrides other considerations. With budgets balancing on the edge of a knife, most care homes are run off paper. It is inefficient, insecure but understandable. We have a duty as a supplier to work with clients and come up with appropriate solutions.

As well as suppliers working harder to make technology solutions more accessible for health and social care, the government also needs to step up. We all need to work together to bring technology to the sector. The current crisis has proven to the country that the NHS and social care are essential. They are two sides of the same coin. They need a joint plan of action of funding to be agreed.

The hope that the government will see the benefits that health and social care bring as a whole entity is what should emerge from this crisis. Beyond Brexit and Covid-19, health and social care will endure and the time to work together is now.