Background and study aims
UTOPIA aimed to understand Adult Social Care Department (ASCD) perspectives on the role of telecare in supporting older people, how it is deployed, and what information is collected by ASCDs to help them assess whether it is fulfilling this role.
Assistive technology and telecare (ATT) is the use of electronic devices to support the independence of people with social care needs. It is usually used to compensate for physical and cognitive frailty to support independence.
Austerity and rising demand for services due to demographic change are twin pressures encouraging ASCDs to consider the use of telecare. Many ASCDs have invested significantly in telecare to transform the delivery of home care and support services because they think that it has a major role in supporting people to lead more independent lives, and because it can be a more cost effective alternative to care provided by another human being.
Early evaluations of telecare services and projects strongly indicated such cost effectiveness. However, more recent findings from a large and robust trial of telecare funded by the Department of Health—the ‘Whole System Demonstrator Project’—found no evidence of benefit to telecare users.
What is the relevance of UTOPIA?
Current research evidence suggests that telecare does not improve outcomes for recipients and will not lead to significant savings in expenditure. This suggests that telecare may be a poor ‘investment’ in the way it is currently deployed. If this is the case, ASCDs may wish to consider whether scarce resources might be better spent on alternative, non-telecare based services that may be more effective, or alternatively, to make changes to the way telecare is assessed for and implemented to improve its effectiveness.
UTOPIA used researched insights to establish ‘good practice’ and develop materials to optimise decisions about successful adoption and use of telecare.
John Woolham, Nicole Steils, Dr Malcom Fisk, Jeremy Porteus, Kirsty Forsyth