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Data is not the answer

Posted by: and , Posted on: - Categories: Care and support, Digital skills and technologies, Workforce
Analysing data on a touch screen
"Data gives you information. Wisdom is the ability to understand that information and translate it into actions and insights." [Image created by]

... at least not on its own!

What if we told you that, in our opinion, data and digital approaches are not the solution to solving the challenges of the social care sector? You’d definitely be wondering why there’s so much fuss being made about digital transformation of adult social care. But before you breathe a sigh of relief at the thought you don’t have to get your head around all that technical stuff, let us explain what we mean.

We believe the key to solving the challenges of the social care sector lies in the hands of the right people using data to make informed decisions and take appropriate actions. Data gives you information. Wisdom is the ability to understand that information and translate it into actions and insights.

History teaches us valuable lessons. It was not that long ago the idea of sterilising medical equipment and using antiseptic approaches to care for wounds was considered unusual. Yet thanks to the work of the surgeon Joseph Lister, it’s inconceivable that any care setting would not have infection prevention and control measures in place.

Concerned about the high rate of post-surgical infections and mortality he was seeing, Lister began trialling ways to prevent infection based on observations of his patients. He then used the data he gathered from those observations to test and develop his idea to sterilise surgical equipment and use antiseptic techniques to treat wounds.

Lister’s trials led to dramatically improved post-surgical survival rates and the development of the antiseptic system approach to surgical care.

man and woman discussing data in front of a laptop
"For data to be useful and relevant to the way that care is delivered... it needs enquiring minds from within the sector." [Image created by]

Unlock data's potential now

With the increasing number of care providers implementing digital social care records (digital care plans) to support the delivery of safer and more personalised care, there’s never been a better time to start applying the same principles used by Joseph Lister and use data to unlock ways to deliver better social care.

Data has the potential to be transformative. Whether it’s AI (Artificial Intelligence) tools to help people navigate the complex world of the care sector, smarter systems to plan home care routes or organise rotas or even using data to support the next generation of pandemic preparedness responses.

For data to be useful and relevant to the way that care is delivered, however, it needs enquiring minds from within the sector. The innovative ideas and new ways to support people drawing on care will come from people working in social care. It’s the people on the front line of care who know what problems need solving.  And its data and what it can tell us which holds the key to workable solutions.

What are the questions you need data to help you answer? Maybe start with areas like falls prevention, medication optimisation or tackling loneliness?

Using data to help us shape how care is delivered also opens new opportunities for career development within the sector.  Roles which focus on digital, data and technology (DDaT)  are more commonplace in health than social care professional. But digital transformation is helping to change that.

digitally created hands protecting a virtual flower
"How might we use artificial intelligence to solve [the] care challenges [of the future?]" [Image created by]

What does the future hold?

We don’t know where these ideas will lead, or what positive outcomes there will be for those drawing on social care, so while data is not THE answer it’s certainly the stepping stone to finding AN answer to the question, what does good care look like in the future?

If you really want to explore the art of the possible, you can read about  £94 million being directed to the National Quantum Computing Centre. What challenges might it help us with? Could it help us optimise care?

Closer to home, how might we use artificial intelligence to solve our care challenges with access to support from the Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation, leveraging £210 million of investment? Maybe there’s a challenge that you face as part of your role that it could help with?

Check out these accessible courses on data and what you can do with it.

Find out more about our work on digitising social care.

A version of this article originally appeared in Caring Times

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