Using digital services to provide the ‘human touch’

By Dr Andrew Larner | 11 January 2022
  • Dr Andrew Larner

As we enter a new year, still under the shadow of the pandemic, we are all seeking new ways to serve our residents that increase quality and reduce costs. As a sector managing financial and staffing, resources to meet increasing demand has been a part of the day job for some time.

The pandemic has stretched resources further and added the challenge of access, particularly to vulnerable residents. In this context the use of digital service delivery can seem counter intuitive, at a time when what is lacking is human touch and voice to use digital approaches might seem less, much less, human.

Yet this is exactly what digital service delivery is doing. It gives a real opportunity for residents to feel a level of control over the information we hold about them, the likes of which they have not seen before. In care services in particular, controlling access to records and ensuring their accuracy can be dramatically improved with the involvement of the user and their advocates. There was unanimous support for the care user controlling information about them in a 2021 survey of local authority care services by iESE.

Another principle that arose from the iESE 2021 survey was the need to make records more meaningful for care users. This can mean holding more information, beyond that prescribed by statute. This richer information often entered by the care user in applications such as Mind of My Own (https://mindofmyown.org.uk/) give a voice to the care user empowering them, but providing many other benefits to the care user and authority alike. The authority gets a very clear picture about those clients that are in need and where to focus their resources. The care worker gets information in advance in the voice of the child freeing up time during the contact making more time for meaningful engagement.

But a digital approach isn’t just supporting human-to-human contact. Totally automated contact also now provides a ‘human touch’. During the pandemic the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to support outbound calls has allowed totally automated conversation to ensure thousands of people are contacted. The call systems, such as the work of Yokeru (https://www.yokeru.io/) has conducted with the City of Westminster have shown that these calls are able to deliver at a scale not possible using a human voice – a way that residents really appreciate and that identifies those who need a follow-up call.

The results of the iESE 2021 survey have been turned into a Charter for the Fair Use of Care Information, which can be viewed here: https://iese.org.uk/carecubed-charter.

If you would like support on considering the real benefits of a digital approach to your council, get in touch with us at: enquiries@iese.org.uk.

Dr Andrew Larner is chief executive of the Improvement & Efficiency Social Enterprise (iESE), which supports public sector transformation

This article is sponsored content for The MJ

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