Android Dreams: How Not to Use Technology to Solve Problems

- Written by Jim Ward, UK Consultant

Should we be worried about using digital technology in the Care sector?

I read an article recently about a robot called Fabio.

His job was to be in a supermarket and greet customers, be friendly, interact with them and help improve their shopping experience. The robot was designed to look humanoid, made from shiny white plastic with an iPad on his chest and would high-five staff and customers. Typical stereotype robot! The only problem with Fabio, was that he wasn’t much help. He gave vague replies to questions, couldn’t work as fast as his human counterparts and the customers actively tried to avoid him. I think I would!

I began to wonder if the point of technology has being misunderstood. What if Fabio had been in the reception of an A&E department, would we be looking at the results in such a light hearted way? Would it be ok if he made mistakes there while trying to high five people waiting to see a doctor?

Focus on Solving Problems

To me, this is a perfect example of a product being designed and built that fails to fulfill a clear need. A humanoid robot which doesn’t have a clear purpose will always be trying to do what its creators want, instead of what is needed. If we think of what we want from Healthcare technology, this is probably not the way to go.

The primary goal of any technology, especially in the health sector is to satisfy a real need. In most cases, successful products neatly fill the gaps that exist in the market. Technology is an enabler and not the driving force. So if we develop our solutions based on the problems we are faced with and use the best technology available, we stand a better chance of being successful. It won’t happen by designing our products to satisfy our own vanity.

In Fabio’s case, a simple screen that gives the customer relevant information about the shop they are in. Shops spend vast amounts of money trying to understand our shopping habits. Surely that information could be used to make the whole business of shopping less of a grind!

Use Technology to Drive the Process Improvements

So, how could technology help improve the urgent need to reduce pressure on hospital beds for example?

Reablement focuses on creating a team of professionals who, for example, follow a 6 week plan to make sure that people can leave hospital with everything they need in place to be able to live safely at home. The 2015 BBC Panorama documentary ‘The perfect Storm’ gave us some terrifying facts about elderly patients who spend too long in hospitals.

  • ⅔ of hospital admissions are over 65’s
  • If you are over 75 and in hospital for more than 7 days, you will lose 14% of your muscle mass and you will suffer the equivalent of aging 10 years
  • 1 week in hospital costs £3500 while 1 week of reablement costs around £700

These facts alone should provide the motivation to ensure that patient reablement is successful, and technology aimed at helping to achieve this would be highly desirable.

With many different branches of the Health & Social Care Services being drafted in to form these coordinated teams, all team members must be able to communicate effectively with each other, manage appointments efficiently, communicate with relatives, while ensuring that care plans and medicine adherence is followed.

The truth is that patients want to be at home and not occupying a hospital bed, so the push to treat people closer to their own homes is clearly beneficial on many levels. If a person is not well enough to be independently sent home, the default position should not be to stay in hospital – blocking beds.

So if care homes or domiciliary care – with assistance from Healthcare –  are to become the preferred route for the elderly to leave hospital, then technology must provide the solutions in order to speed up the process and ensure its safety.

Fastroi have developed such a technology. Their Real Time Care (RTC) system allows service providers to manage and coordinate staff to remove bottlenecks and allow seamless integration of care and medical staff. Visit reports can be dictated straight into a smartphone and auto-transcribed to text, then uploaded and stored immediately in the patient record, while at the same time allowing family members to be kept in the loop. Managing large care teams becomes easier when the technology allows optimisation of visits, driving routes, real time reporting and improved communications.

 

Improving the Flow of Information

Reablement relies on the cooperation of many groups to achieve its results and using a tool like RTC, the teams would have more time to focus on the most important work of helping patients to leave hospital as soon as possible and feel secure in the knowledge that there is a clear pathway for them to return home as soon as possible. Without technology to do this, the extra support functions needed to manage the process would make everything less efficient, more prone to errors and less transparent.

RTC can also integrate with care monitoring systems – often referred to as TeleCare and TeleHealth – providing a 24/7 capability to monitor patients in their own homes, with named individuals being helped by technology, to provide the best quality of care for all.

While people may be still amazed by robots like Fabio, the reality of technology requires a different approach. We must continue to create awesome products that solve our biggest problems. We need to use the technology that is available as well as developing new solutions, otherwise we will be stuck with an army of Fabio’s who have no real purpose except to look cute and create media interest. Technology has always been about pushing boundaries, whether it be the steam engine or the smartphone. The key to unlocking technology is how we use it.

Categories: Care, Real-time Care