New guidelines released on the use of AI in adult social care  

New guidelines released on the use of AI in adult social care
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A new guide on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and emerging technology in adult social care has been published by the University of Birmingham. 

The new guide aims to help adult social care workers avoid common mistakes made when using AI and new technology in their care. The guide was informed by researchers from the University of Birmingham, who collaborated with RAND Europe and NHS England. 

The researchers reviewed the implementation of home sensors with AI capabilities, which had been trialled in different adult social care sites in England. The AI sensors collect data on the everyday actions of people in care, such as using the kettle, flushing the toilet, opening doors and getting out of bed. The data is then used to build a picture of people’s everyday routines and can flag unusual changes, which may indicate deteriorating health and wellbeing. 

Improvements need to be made to AI in adult social care

Despite the benefits of AI technology, the researchers found several issues in the implementation and decision-making processes behind AI, which kept the technology from achieving its potential. 

“Technology could have the potential to transform the way we deliver social care, but so many attempts to introduce new technology seem to over-promise and under-deliver. This could be for many different reasons, including a lack of understanding or fear of technology, unrealistic expectations about what technology can achieve, or underestimating the importance of social and cultural change alongside technological solutions,” said Jon Glasby, Professor of Health and Social Care at the University of Birmingham. 

The guide advises that adult social care workers adhere to the following simple four-step process: 

  • Be clear about what you are trying to achieve and involve people who draw on care and support, families, and front-line staff in these discussions; 
  • Choose the best technology for your needs, understand the potential risks, and assess whether your current digital infrastructure is ready for this new tool; 
  • Communicate well with people who draw on care and support, carers and care staff, make sure you have the right training in place, and be clear about how you will use any data you produce; and 
  • Build in evaluation from the beginning, learn from what does not work and what does, and (when this pilot is finished) think through what you might do next. 

“By thinking early on about exactly what a new technology is meant to accomplish, how data will be used and what type of training or support might be needed, we can help make sure that technology is used to its fullest potential to improve adult social care,” said Sarah Parkinson from RAND Europe. 

AI is becoming more prevalent in healthcare

The UK government has stated that they want AI to transform the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases by 2030. The government is launching five research centres in London, Glasgow, Leeds, Oxford and Coventry, each focusing on a different application of AI. It has been reported that over 50% of NHS trusts are interested in funding AI research. 

“We want to see adult social care making the most of new technology. For instance, AI could help us better understand – and meet – people’s care needs, based on their day-to-day habits,” said Helen Whately, Minister for Social Care in the Department for Health and Social Care. 

“Introducing new and emerging technology is exciting – but it’s easy for things to go wrong. We hope that this research and guide will help social care colleagues by paying attention to how we make good decisions, bring people with us and get the best out of new ways of working,” she concluded.

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