Long term care revolution – ready for the challenge?

Long term care revolution – ready for the challenge?

Long term care revolution – ready for the challenge? 860 489 Border Crossing UX

Last week I was fortunate to be part of something new. Something I hope to be big, something I know will change our world: The long term care revolution. And now I’m going to challenge you to become part of that too.

The problem

It’s been known for some time that the World’s population is ageing.

In fact, the ageing economy is now the third biggest in the world, after the US and China. So, how well equipped is our care system to deal with the needs and wants of our changing populations? How well equipped are we as a society? Do our cities, towns, villages work? How do you want to be looked after in your later life?

All these questions and more were posed last week at the Long Term Care Revolution Live, a fascinating two day conference that was made possible by Innovate UK in association with DHI (The Digital Health & Care Institute) and the European Commission, in partnership with RBS.

Asking the hard questions about Long Term Care

The first challenge of this conference was to ask some hard questions about how care systems should work, not just for older people but for everyone with long term care needs. The key question was:

Is the current institutional model of long term care suitable or sustainable for the 21st century in a digitally connected world?

The second was to inspire the attendees to change the way we serve these people, to build better products and services for them, to work across sectors and collaborate to make our world a better place for us all:

If it is not fit for purpose how can we revolutionise the system? Or do we accept that the system is not the best but is slowly changing and we need to give it time?

This is not an issue that affects a small proportion of the country or indeed the world. It is pervasive in all our lives as at some part we will all either provide help or care for a family member or friend or require this ourselves.


Key takeaways

The two day agenda was jam packed with great speakers from a variety of sectors and places from Care home innovators to digital start-ups.

My key takeaways were:

  • Ageing is not a disease – it is a process, which if we are lucky, we get to experience.
  • By 2051 in the UK, the over 65 year old age demographic is expected to increase by 81% (to 16.8 million) and the over 85 demographic will grow by 225% (4 million).

snapshot of the care sector

  • Institutional care is no longer fit for purpose. Designed over 200 years ago it is not working for our current, let alone future, needs.
  • More people in the private sector work in care provision than the public sector (41% vs 32%).
  • 80% of care is provided by family or friends. It is this informal care that is currently propping up the formal care system.
  • Most people want to be cared for in their home – they want a dignified option, to be autonomous as possible. They want to be empowered and delay institutionalisation as long as possible.
  • The only way to truly shift care back to the home is to ensure that our homes are suitable for our changing needs as we grow older.

  • The social and health inequalities that are prevalent in our society are not acceptable.
  • This answer is not just a technology revolution but a social one – we must change the way we think as well as our behaviour.
  • In order to innovate on the way we approach long term care we need to truly understand the needs and motivations of this segment of our population – not just their current ones but their future one’s too!

  • There is a need to take a systematic, whole of life view – there is no point in building awesome apps for mobiles, if people are afraid to walk around in the street.
  • There is a need to increase the inclusive design of our environments, not just in the home but on the roads, pavements, public spaces etc. We should design our urban environments to be both accessible and pleasurable to all segments of our society.
  • What do older people want from tech? They DO NOT WANT:
    • To rely on third parties (in this instance people not APIs) and they want to have control of their environment.
    • To make them dependent but rather to preserve their own autonomy.
    • New ICT but they do want to use existing technologies in new and different ways.
  • They want to benefit from, not rely upon, new technology.
  • There are a lot of inspirational people out there who are looking to change things for the better. The key to this revolution is empowering them to truly innovate, take risks and make a difference.


Why should you care?

I think there are many reasons on both a social and economic level we should all care about this.

We have improved our society through healthcare, technology and infrastructure. The progress and innovation in these areas has had a brilliant impact: we live longer.

Now we need to ensure that not only our institutions are fit for purpose, but our society is too. We need to design not just products and services that fit the wants and needs of the over 75s but build our towns and cities to allow us to live together productively and not exclude any section of society.

graph showing gdp by economy in 2012

But if you need more than a social or aspirational reason – think about the bottom line. The longevity economy is now the third biggest in the World after the U.S and China. In 2012, it’s GDP was estimated to be worth 7.1 trillion US Dollars – that’s £7,100,000,000,000!!!

If the population ages as we expect, this market will only grow. The estimated value of digital healthcare alone is expected to reach $1,000,000,000,000 by 2020 alone. Through innovation organisations can take advantage of this opportunity and start designing and delivering products and services that are aimed at segments of this market.

So, this is an opportunity to make money as well as make the World a better place  – now that is a good reason to care!

The National challenge

Innovate UK and SBRI have launched a national challenge to improve the long term care we provide.

The challenge is:

To disrupt the existing institutional model of long term care provision that has been in existence in the UK since the 19th century.

To develop game changing products, services and/or systems that will offer people dignified and desirable alternatives to the status quo.

Will you rise to the challenge?

Can you think of a commercially viable product, service or system that will change the way we view and deliver long term care? Do you want to be disruptive and innovative in your thinking? Then this is the challenge for you!

The opportunities are limitless for this competition as the companies who were showcased at the event proved. You could build a real time monitoring system for the home, a game that encourages people to take their medicine at the right time or develop accommodation specifically for the needs of an ageing population. It doesn’t matter what you want to do  – what matters is the potential impact.

This competition is open to all organisations of all sizes and in all sectors. You can apply as a standalone company or form a consortium through a single project lead. What matters is building the right cross-functional team to develop your idea. As the competition organisers say:

We are seeking agile, innovative, ambitious and creative large enterprises, SMEs, micro-businesses, entrepreneurs, third sector, public and private sector organisations and academics; who will respond to this challenge with innovative products, services and systems that will make a significant change to the existing market, be sustainable, scalable and fit for the 21st century.

Up to £4 million is available to fund successful projects over a 24 month period. Projects can be 100% funded and the fund is expected to be split between 1 and 8 companies – but it all depends on the submissions.

Key dates

  • Registration Deadline- 26th August 2015
  • Deadline for Application- 2nd September 2015
  • Contracts Awarded- 25th November 2015
  • Projects Commence- 1st January 2016

For more information on the challenge – take a look at Innovate UK’s website or at the SBRI’s competition page.

Want to collaborate?

We are getting behind this revolution. And believe that cross-sector collaboration may be the best way to deliver an idea that is truly innovate and people-centred. We want to work with like-minded individuals who see the problem but more importantly the individual.

Get in touch if you want to join this revolution and work together to build a future that we can be proud of.

Useful links

The Long Term Healthcare Revolution

Innovate UK competition page

SRBI (All competitions page)

Horizons tool for finding out more information about the market

The Long Term Healthcare Revolution Provocation Paper

The Digital Health and Care Institute

Design for Care by Peter Jones – a great book available from Rosenfeld Media, and overview of the issues, opportunities, case studies and design methods. It is a great book for designers, practice professionals and other stakeholders to want to make a positive difference.

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