Transformation Directorate

The benefits of digitisation in social care

Why data matters to adult social care - Nik Seth

Nik Seth, founder of Holm Care

“I used to live in Estonia and the one thing which totally blew me away was how digitisation had revolutionised everyday life there. Whether I wanted to vote in elections, complete my tax returns, sign contracts or check my health records, I could do them all in just a few clicks from the comfort of my sofa.

“Any doctor in the country could check my medical records at any surgery or hospital. Not only that, but I could control what other people saw and check who had seen my information. It gave me reassurance that no one was looking at my records without good reason. My GP could issue a digital prescription which I could collect at any pharmacy in the country.

“In Estonia health care records are communicated digitally between care homes, GPs hospitals, social workers and community nurses. There are no paper records to hand over, and no frustrated people repeating their medical history to every new healthcare professional that they meet (which I’ve heard so many people in the UK complain about!). This is especially important if someone has a complex history, or a condition like dementia. Things often get missed.

“The pandemic has demonstrated how more and more people are buying goods and services online. A slow process has been accelerated; and social care is no different.

“Holm Care is a social care startup helping the elderly in their own homes. Based on my experiences in Estonia, it was essential we were fully digital from the start. Having everything online enables clients to update their care needs, manage their payments and book their favourite carers at any time, day or night. We can monitor care remotely and our staff can update records in real time; they don’t need to be in the office. This has already reduced the time it takes for people to start receiving support from weeks to days.

“Our vision involves taking a leaf out of the Estonian book, learning from it and building upon that here. We want a world in which we are able to connect our care records with the NHS. Doctors and nurses spend a small amount of time with their patients. They have to make important clinical decisions based upon those snapshots. Our carers spend more time with individuals, their observations add colour and detail to patient records. These details should be included in patient records, so clinicians are more informed about a patient’s overall health and wellbeing. Our carers would also be able to react far more quickly to new medical advice and not have to wait for instructions to filter from hospitals to surgeries to district nurses before a carer alters their support.

“Looking further into the future, artificial intelligence and smart homes could play a greater role in supporting people, recognising changes in health and behaviour earlier and improving people’s lives before they deteriorate. Support would be less regimented and more tailored. All these things would greatly benefit medical and care staff, but most importantly the outcomes for the individual at the centre. Through digitisation and data sharing, people would stop being a patient or service user. They would be seen as the person they are.”