Remote care - 'telecare' - could potentially improve the quality and personalisation of care, while also increasing efficiency and controlling costs. It is increasingly seen as a key vehicle for achieving whole system change within the UK's emerging health and social care infrastructure. However, the big challenge is not only to test whether this new technology actually works. HaCIRIC is playing an important role in tackling a second major challenge: understanding how remote care could be successfully adopted and embedded into healthcare systems in a sustainable way.
We have many years' experience of researching and advising government and industry on the implementation of remote care. We were invited by the Department of Health to help form a consortium to evaluate the Government's Whole System Demonstrators (WSD) programme. This £30m programme introduces remote care into three sites and explores the impact across the local care system in the world's largest randomised control trial of remote care services. The research is being carried out with UCL, LSE, Oxford and Manchester universities and the King's Fund and Nuffield Trust.
Careful project design and management matters
Early results suggest that factors significantly influencing successful implementation include careful project design and management, greatly improved organisational communication, plus personal and organisational flexibility. Especially important for mainstream adoption is the development of a clear evidence base for the benefits of remote care and translation of this into a business case and business models.
What is the impact of strategic decision-making?
We are focusing especially on strategic decision making and how organisational ownership and identity can support local remote care innovation capacity. This is helping us to understand the factors that influence its adoption, from initial ideas to implementation and take up as a mainstream part of care services. As a result, we now have probably the most comprehensive longitudinal data ever collected on the organisational factors influencing remote care adoption and implementation.
Creating the verdict on remote care
The WSD programme attempts to drive policy development following rigorous evaluation of outcomes and processes. Our research will help to inform government to develop the right support services and policies to meet the future needs of care services and to decide whether remote care is a cost effective solution that should be implemented nationwide and abroad, through our international work in this field.