The healthcare sector is facing rapid technological change in the post-COVID ‘new normal’, according to a new report from Barclays Corporate Banking, Stepping out of the shadows: Social care prepares for a digital future.
Going into 2020, there were already a range of challenges facing UK healthcare. By 2043, the number of people aged over 65 is set to increase by 43%, whilst those over 85 will increase by 87%1 – and by 2035, the number of people with two or more chronic health conditions will reach almost 10 million2. In addition to these longstanding challenges, the recent emergence of COVID-19 has placed additional strain on the healthcare sector and acutely magnified existing pressures.
However, this new report from Barclays indicates that the pandemic also presents an opportunity for wider and systemic transformation in healthcare. COVID-19 has significantly increased interest in digital communications and the use of technology, with four out of five people agreeing that technology has been a vital support during the months of lockdown3. The number of over-70s required to self-isolate and use technology to order essentials such as groceries, manage banking services and communicate with family and friends increased significantly in this period, creating a future social care population that’s far more digitally-savvy than many could ever have imagined in early 2020.
This report indicates that increased familiarity with technology – and thus increased usage within the sector – will help support the shift from healthcare being something patients access when they’re sick, to something that can support healthy lifestyles and mental and physical wellness. In a care setting, this more proactive approach can alert staff before problems reach a critical stage and, for those living independently, provide reassurance that their wellbeing is being closely monitored.
The widespread roll-out of assistive technologies – including wearable sensors, vital sign monitors and stress level trackers – can aid greater independence and improve the experience of care at home or in residential settings. Additionally, a switch to digital by healthcare providers will also boost connectivity within individual and care homes, allowing for more responsive, data-driven development of care.
Jamie Grant, Head of Corporate Banking for Barclays in Scotland, commented:
“Technology will revolutionise social care in the UK. The sector is waking up to the potential that technology offers to create better, more effective and efficient care for residents/users and deliver real business benefits for providers. The opportunities are wide-ranging.
“Sharing information about the potential of technology and these opportunities with providers, individuals and local authorities, is an important part of the UK social care debate. Connecting our clients with what is possible in the world of social care can help initiate conversations and deliver real change.”