Technology and Care: A Game Changer?
Press reports at the turn of year (that were not dealing with the virus) included fascinating technological developments that could prove a watershed in the provision and cost of care. Conservatively, care equates to around two thirds of the value of most serious injury claims; any development that might reduce this cost needs close attention from all insurers and the experts they instruct. Assumed normal practice in delivery may eventually become outdated.
Social care providers are grappling with challenges on many fronts including:
- Recruitment and retention of staff to deliver effective care.
- A lack of central funding.
- The ongoing Covid-19 “tsunami”.
Historical dependence on manual provision of care is unlikely to cope with the challenge. A radical rethink of how care providers can deliver services is required to include exploring how technology can augment the workforce and enhance delivery. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated technological advances in many areas of society and it is possible that the innovative use of technology can reset the traditional care delivery model.
The press reports focused on initiatives and pilots conducted by PA Consulting in conjunction with Hampshire County Council. These links will be of interest:
The Technologies covered include:
- Collaborating robots (Cobots)
The most advanced area is robotic exoskeletons, external apparatus worn to protect carers as they deliver physical care and move and support care receivers.
- Semi humanoid robots
Smart robots with human like characteristics used to engage patiently with people living with Alzheimer’s, dementia or learning difficulties.
- Robotic animals
Can serve as companions, interacting and engaging patiently with people living with Alzheimer’s, dementia or learning difficulties.
- Digital assistants
Voice controlled devices and services can support people with care needs at home, making it easier to control their environment, or call for help.
- Medicine robots
Automated medicine dispensers remind people when to take their medication.
- Automated call services
Make and manage calls to check on vulnerable people.
But, technology is no magic bullet and care is still profoundly a human business. Whilst unlikely to replace human interactive care, technology should reduce the human hours and could reduce long term cost. There is no certainty that a package based on human hands-on care for life over many decades will be an accurate picture of the assessed need over time.
There is potential for considerable overlap in the personal injury litigation arena where, particularly on high value cases, the cost of care is the biggest head of damage. For example, cobots can help people who need care in areas such as rehabilitation for walking as well as aiding carers with tasks such as moving and supporting people. It may be possible that care for a person with complex needs, which may previously have required two carers working together, can in some instances be delivered by a single individual using a cobot and specialist equipment.
However this area is still in its infancy and just one “known unknown” are the costs implications of such technology. Are the manual handling aids going to be sought by all carers to reduce or remove the risk of injury? This seemed to be the focus of the Local Authority pilot. This could add material cost to many claims, balancing out any savings made in a few cases by avoiding full-time double up.
Medicine robots could help avoid the need for a carer to visit several times a day to check medication had been taken. The dispensing robots guide patients to take the right medicine, as prescribed. This frees up time for the carer. These remote IT support solutions have been seen over the years but have rarely taken off. Perhaps this is an area where they will become more mainstream.
Some of the technologies are already established in the consumer market, for example digital connected consumer devices (DCCDs). Their artificial intelligence capabilities can be quickly adapted to the requirements of the care sector. Examples of widely available consumer devices that can support care outcomes include Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple Homepod devices and their associated voice assistants; activity trackers such as FitBit and Garmin; and environmental sensors such as Hive, Ring and Nest.
We at Keoghs will be seeking to consult with the relevant IT providers to ascertain how such technologies can be effectively used in the field of personal injury.