Every year, technology plays an increasingly important part in our working lives. On-the-go email, cloud systems like GoogleDocs, and a variety of other apps, both mainstream and bespoke, have become fundamental to countless businesses across the globe. The social care sector has not escaped this digital advent, and its usage has brought in a multitude of benefits to clients and carers alike.
Those working in the sector cite a range of benefits to working with online reporting systems to improve efficiency and care quality, for example, by increasing communication between patients and their families, providing vital frontline support and helping individuals plan their own care and support. Technology can reduce time-consuming paperwork by moving record keeping online and the number of trips to the office to fill in reports or collect rotas with the introduction of digital access.
Increased use of technology can also cultivate a better work-life balance, allowing for greater autonomy and flexible working, both of which could play an important role in aiding the recruitment and retention of vital staff for the sector. When 82% of care workers are women, but 42% of women work part-time, it is imperative that flexible working hours are maintained, especially given the ever-burgeoning demand an ageing population puts on the service.
The news that more than two-fifths of NHS spending in the UK goes on over-65s it is clear that alternative solutions need to be considered to reduce the burden on the NHS. Investment into technology would enable more people to receive care at home, reducing the cost on the NHS. As demonstrated by this paper, technology will be invaluable in transforming the care sector.
Yet, the subject remains contentious and the subject does not come without concerns, predominantly around cost. Furthermore, while technology is able to improve the work-life balance, this can also too easily be undermined if the work-life divide is blurred, an incident that easily occurs when calls are taken and emails replied to at home via mobile technology. Taking work home can corrode team spirit and morale while creating a sense of isolation as group meetings and training is no longer necessary.
Therefore, the application of technology in social care must be managed with care. It is crucial that thorough training of new technology is provided to ensure confidence among clients and carers alike. To mitigate isolation, technology should not replace all interaction and face to face contact should also be employed. It is clear that innovative solutions can play a paramount role improving efficiency and quality in the care sector, but this needs to be done in a considered way.