Digital technology has the power to transform services and provides adult social care with huge opportunity. Technology also offers opportunities to help people maintain independence and improve outcomes using tech enabled care.
Skills for Care believes that developing digital leadership and growing the wider sector’s skills are inter-dependent. Growing and developing confident and skilled digital leaders will ensure the digital development of those they manage.
The use of digital technology in social care is relatively new, bringing with it new terms and phrases which aren’t always easily understood. Here’s a list commonly used words and phrases and what they mean in adult social care.
‘Digital’ is the term used to describe the adoption and use of technology to support the secure and effective delivery of services across the care sector.
Digital can include technology and computer systems and encompasses a variety of subjects including use of the internet, technology enabled care, social media, digital care applications, consumer or mainstream technology, cybersecurity, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
‘Digital skills’ are the particular abilities in the use of technology to support the safe and effective delivery of care services and/or to enable a member of the social care workforce to fulfil other aspects of their role.
Examples of these skills may include:
- use of software applications
- how to safely handle information and communicate electronic information
- safe use of the internet and social media
- connecting to others through video calls and other online services
- understanding the ethical aspects associated with introducing and using digital technology.
‘Digital capabilities’ refer to the combination of learnt digital skills with the behaviours, confidence and motivation to apply these skills in a social care context, to achieve a desired outcome.
Staff with greater digital capabilities will be more able to adopt and use technology to support effective delivery of care services by their organisation, increase options for learning and development, better manage their internal business processes and make informed decisions.
‘Digital leadership’ is where people take the lead in their organisation to drive the adoption and use of technology, alongside the development of their workforce’s digital skills to better deliver care services, as well as wider business and management activities. Within social care, this is sometimes those who have a designated role as a leader, in other cases this can be someone who leads in this area without a formal role as a leader.
Digital leaders in social care are creative, innovative people with strong networking and collaboration skills, who can persuade, mobilise and lead social care staff and others to share their vision and lead the journey to realising the wider use and benefits of digital technology. They require a range of skills and capabilities to allow them to effectively lead their organisation, guiding its workforce through the adoption of new technology and new ways of working, enabling the organisation to embed technology to remain effective, efficient, resilient and competitive within the adult social care sector.
‘Digital maturity’ is a measure of how capable and sophisticated an organisation is in their adoption and use of technology. It can include different dimensions including the culture of the organisation to support innovation, digital leadership, workforce skills to support digital working, the capability to use digital technology.
For example, a digitally mature social care provider may be paper-free and use technology to manage their day-to-day services and delivery of care. They may have a detailed website with access to a wide range of information and media. They may have strict processes in place over how they protect the data held on their computers. The provider’s services may also benefit from systems which can help them learn how to best tailor services to meet the needs of people receiving care and support.
‘Digital readiness’ is a key factor behind an organisations digital maturity. A social care provider’s level of digital readiness is the degree to which its staff can plan and deploy the use of technology in the delivery of care services.
There are self-assessment tools available online to help care providers measure their level of digital readiness.
Access the Digital Social Care and Skills for Care digital readiness tool
‘Data protection’ is defined as the legal control over access to and use of data stored in computers. In practice it represents a range of business processes and activities carried out by organisations to control and protect this stored data.
Within social care, this is particularly important given the sensitive, confidential, and critical nature of information that’s held about people receiving care and support.
Find out more about data protection and legislation
‘Cybersecurity’ is defined as protection against criminal or unauthorised use of electronic data held by an organisation and encompasses the security measures and processes that are involved in doing this.
The Data Security Protection Toolkit (DSPT) is an online self-assessment tool which helps care providers to evaluate and improve their cybersecurity/data security. The DSPT sets out the standards required by social care providers to protect people’s information from the risk of breach or cyberattack (also known as hacking).
DSPT completion is supported by the Better Security, Better Care programme which helps care providers to evaluate and improve their cybersecurity/data security with resources and support.
Find out more on the Digital Social Care website
Digital technologies have the potential to improve social care. They can extend the services on offer, giving people greater independence and control over their care and are proven to help support well-being. They can free up the time care workers now spend on administration tasks for more face-to-face care. And they can help care providers to operate more efficiently, so they can do more to look after those they support and their employees.
NHSX commissioned reviews of the current extent of digital technologies and digital skills in the sector and how both could be scaled up.
Skills for Care is pleased to be a key partner in this work on digital skills to support with reaching out to a range of organisations and people involved in delivering social care.