The use of data analysis in social care is picking up speed. The Covid pandemic is leaving us rich in assistive digital technology and we are collecting more data than ever before in social care.
There are various phrases used such as “data is the new oil”, and the one which has captured my imagination is that “data is the new doctor”. Not that data gives the answer, it simply opens up new possibilities of better quality of life and for proactive care.
The Government woke up to the potential uses for data from social care in its need to track Covid in the community, including in residential care. Capacity Tracker was upgraded from a guide and monitor of occupancy in care homes to a data collection tool for social care organisations. The statutory machine needed to collate data to inform practice. In order to receive the Covid-related funding, care organisations had to complete the Capacity Tracker, so the data was collected coercively, and in many ways this worked.
As data flowed from social care as never before it presaged a whole new era. I did some research with NHS Digital on the efficacy of a programme to collate social care data direct from care providers’ own digital care records … and it worked … but it needed greater resource for analysis of the data. This was seen as truly the way forward.
Keep digital records
Consequently as many pieces of the jigsaw came together, NHSX (now the NHS Transformation Directorate), set targets for 80% of care organisations to have digital care records by March 2024, an ambitious yet necessary target if data is to help shape the sector and care responses in the community.
The thirst for data has now been enshrined in the December 2021 White Paper: People at the Heart of Care: adult social care reform. The collection of data from care organisations will be a mandatory part of the health and care system.
The Government has understood that there needs to be gentle coercion to get people to participate. And on the other side of the coin there is an understanding that if a person or organisation provides data, there has to be some benefit for the organisation, not just the machine which the data serves .. and that is the new horizon. Data collection to help the whole picture and to benefit the care organisations which will soon be responsible for ensuring that data is provided.
Data by its very nature is historic or at best shows a picture of the present …. But the beauty of it is that it can be analysed to pick up patterns, to monitor quality of life and to offer the potential to predict behaviour and to plan early intervention. The possibilities are endless. The caveat is that data for data’s sake will mean that if people do not see the benefit once they have provided the data, then they will feel resentful … and that is something to be avoided if at all possible.
- Daniel Casson heads the consultancy firm Casson Consulting focussing on innovation in care. He works with the NHS, care providers and innovators in care to build a better care system for all. He is part of the new social care Data Café whose inaugural event was on 18 May 2022.