Hft is a national charity that supports people with learning difficulties. They have deployed two forms of technology to help them provide improved support for their clients. Lincus provides easy to use tablet interfaces that enable people with limited language capability to communicate their needs and it can also capture a wide range of information about people with learning difficulties which can be used to manage the support they are given. Linus has been deployed with the Health Equalities Framework (HEF) which provides a series of scales enabling an assessment to be made of the degree to which people with learning difficulties are able to access support and services. The institute evaluated progress in the adoption of Lincus with the HEF in two Hft locations. The evaluation demonstrated there was considerable benefit for some people with learning difficulties in using Lincus to communicate their needs and that the use of the HEF highlighted inequalities of provision that led to local remedial action. The broader aim of using Lincus as a major management tool were to some extent hampered by difficulties in capturing all the necessary information.
The Institute has begun an evaluation of a system that is able to monitor the extent and form of activity in the home of an older person on a 24-hour basis. The activity monitor can be used to raise an alarm if activity differs radically from the norm and can also provide insights that might lead to changes in support plans.
The system is being deployed in two locations in the north and south of England and the Institute will evaluate the impact of the system upon residents, their families and services providing support.
Together these projects and others conducted in health and social care settings are revealing both the promise of new innovations and the difficulties of establishing them as normal parts of service delivery. Each innovation has consequences for the processes by which service is normally delivered and the issues are therefore not just about technical change but are also about organisational development and service re-design. These projects are enabling the Institute to refine its evaluation and action research techniques in order that it can better provide client-centred support for all the parties involved to enable them to tackle the sociotechnical challenges of embedding new practices in the normal delivery health and social care.
VIDEO-CONFERENCING SERVICES FOR PEOPLE WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES
People with learning disabilities often have problems sustaining contact with their families and accessing health and other services when they need them. This project provided video-conferencing facilities that people with learning disabilities and their carers could use to ease these communication problems. The technology was deployed across five locations in England and the Institute played an action research and evaluation role to support the project in its search for the best way to exploit this technology for the benefit of people with learning disabilities. Early results suggest a major benefit is that the technology can be a significant benefit to families in maintaining contact with people with learning disabilities but that organisational issues in revising service procedures may hamper adoption of the technology within the health services. The project worked in an iterative way to support the learning of all parties about the value of this technology and how to overcome the organisational problems in its adoption.
The Institute has evaluated a system on trial in Darlington in which patients in drug rehabilitation are provided with mobile phones by which they can receive tailored supportive messages and that they can use to seek help. A study has also been undertaken of the same mobile phone application being used in five alcohol rehabilitation services in Greater Manchester. The reports from both projects demonstrate that, when in use, this system can give important support to people in recovery but the organisational issues associated with the adoption of the technology can be significant obstacles to the successful use of the application.