A large part of tomorrow’s healthcare and social care will take place in our homes. Digitalisation plays an important role but it is far from the only parameter to consider in the transition.
The proportion of older people in the population is increasing at the same time as the number of staff in elderly care is decreasing. It is a difficult equation to solve and requires new thinking. Digitalisation makes it possible to partially transfer care to the home, but the question is how this is done in the best way for the individual with a focus on their needs and wishes.
- “When digital welfare services were first introduced, many feared that the elderly would be left alone with the technology, but that was never the aim,” says Joakim Börjesson, Head of the E-health focus area and Manager of the Digital Health unit at RISE. “Instead, the aim is for the technology to relieve the burden on healthcare and social care staff so that they have time to provide crucial human contact.”
Digitalisation can play an important early role in preventive healthcare. Today, only a small proportion of the healthcare budget is spent on preventing disease and ill health, even though it is so important for public health.
- “But it seems that more and more people are beginning to understand the importance of prevention and its link to the need for future healthcare and social care,” says Camilla Evensson, Head of the Future Care focus area at RISE. “With good prevention, it’s possible to bypass, reduce or delay an individual’s need for healthcare and social care.”
- “The technology exists and works, but has proven difficult to put into use in the healthcare system,” explains Börjesson. “There is a great need for support and learning about both the technology and organisation. We are in the midst of a digital transformation that represents one of the biggest changes that we have experienced in healthcare and social care.”
We are enablers with a 360-degree perspective, and we always lean on research and evidence
Another challenge is the work environment. When healthcare and social care take place in the home, adaptations are needed to ensure a good work environment for the staff.
- “There will be a great need for different forms of housing adapted to different stages of ageing,” says Evensson. “Furthermore, the homes need to be modified and equipped to work as efficiently, safely, and integrated as possible, and that the home is supplemented with different types of both digital and analogue care services for the individual.”
Evensson also emphasises that the home and living environment must stimulate the senses, which can be an even greater factor in promoting our wellbeing and health:
- “The ideal is for the digital technology to interact with both the living environment and the individual, while the work environment is good for healthcare and social care staff. It’s important to reiterate that healthcare and social care should be based on the individual’s needs, preferences, wishes, and abilities.”
One solution to the staff shortage in healthcare and social care may be to enlist the help of civil society when it comes to certain care services.
- “But it requires structure and a good compensation system, and the effects of such a solution must be measurable,” says Evensson.
Another challenge is the management of health data, both in terms of cooperation between regions and the interpretation of self-collected data.
- “Misinterpreting your data can cause unnecessary worry, but AI can help in this,” says Börjesson.
Many parameters must be considered when planning the future of healthcare and social care. In order to study the whole, RISE is building a system demonstrator that takes into account different dimensions such as organisation, procurement, legal frameworks, physical environments and digitalisation. This cannot be done in laboratories, it must be carried out in a real-world environment, and several collaborations with municipalities and regions are already underway.
In this work, RISE benefits greatly from its breadth, its interdisciplinary approach, and its position as a neutral party.
- “We are enablers with a 360-degree perspective, and we always lean on research and evidence,” says Börjesson.
- “There are many parties that need to come together in a project like this, which means it’s important that there is a neutral party that doesn’t have its own agenda – and we are that party,” asserts Evensson.