Supplier Spotlight – Appello: Why housing providers need to switch on to the potential of digital today

In our new Supplier Spotlight series, thought leaders and representatives from Consortium Procurement’s wealth of suppliers will offer insight into their businesses, giving you the opportunity to see what they offer. In this edition, Tim Barclay, Chief Executive Officer of Appello a leading provider of technology enabled care services – takes us through the challenges and opportunities of the digital switchover coming in 2025.

There is a digital revolution taking place in the UK today as the telecommunications infrastructure shifts from analogue to digital. By 2025, analogue telephony services will be switched off entirely. This poses great challenges and offers huge opportunities for housing providers, many of which rely on telecare alarm systems that are incompatible with an all-IP network.

In October last year, the Telecare Services Association (TSA) released a white paper: A Digital Future for Technology Enabled Care, warning of the disruption that the replacement of the current Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) with Internet Protocol (IP) telephony would cause amongst technology enabled care (TEC) providers, stakeholders and the 1.7 million people who rely on telecare in the UK. The TSA commented, “Technology enabled care, particularly telecare and telehealth, plays an increasingly important role in health and care. Yet it is threatened by disruption as UK telecommunications shift from analogue to digital.”

Ignoring the elephant in the room

For many housing providers, 2025 is still considered a long way off, but it doesn’t mean that everything is smooth running until then. To ignore this date is to ignore the elephant in the room.

Current analogue systems and products already cause call failures and delays due to network incompatibility, putting vulnerable people at risk. A failure can occur when a call doesn’t reach the monitoring centre or because it was received with impaired sound quality. The risks for housing providers and their customers are deeply worrying.

Data collected at Appello’s monitoring centre (the largest in the industry), shows that the number of first-time failed calls increased from 3% in June 2016 to 9.6% in January 2018. In 2018, we anticipate that monitoring centres across the UK will see more than 4 million failed calls before they reach a monitoring centre due to these changes. This scenario will only worsen as more of the network transitions to all-IP. This could have serious consequences on resident health and wellbeing in an emergency situation.

Focus on potential over disruption

To focus on disruption alone is to ignore the huge potential of digital in delivering supported living solutions fit for the 21st century. Today, digitally-enabled care offers a vastly improved user experience from the typical analogue pull cords, pendant alarms and door entry systems of the past.

Digital not only provides increased resident safety through faster call connections and greater system resilience, but housing providers and their residents stand to benefit from far greater functionality; from room-to-room video calling to visual door entry and a whole host of new digital technologies that promise to improve the lives and wellbeing of older people.

Digital care can provide high-quality alternatives to analogue systems. More importantly, it provides a tool for innovation, enabling housing providers to gain a greater understanding of residents and their changing care needs to deliver value added services that improve health outcomes and provide the opportunity for new revenue streams. It can empower better decision making about site staffing for example. By providing a joined-up view of a resident’s data, housing providers can determine the right level of care.

Residents willing to embrace digital

We surveyed hundreds of residents in retired and sheltered housing who’d had their analogue warden call systems upgraded to our digital Smart Living Solutions and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive; 90% agreed or strongly agreed that the video capability and speed of response (just a few seconds with digital as opposed to around 90 seconds on an analogue system), made them feel much safer and the majority felt the upgrade improved their wellbeing. So we know that residents are ready and willing to embrace digital telecare based on this feedback.

These are powerful testaments to the difference digital can make when we take the opportunity to use the forthcoming analogue switch off as a catalyst for positive change. Housing providers that embrace digital can leverage the speed, scalability and data richness of this new infrastructure and communications protocol to deliver affordable, contemporary and person-centred care and also promote wellbeing.

So why wait?

Several progressive housing providers already recognise the benefits and have gone digital. However, for the bulk of today’s housing providers their telecare systems are still like the ones that have been in place for the past 30 years. These systems are largely analogue-based and frequently incompatible with modern, feature-rich digital systems.

There are some who feel that digital services are not a necessity for everyone right now.  Why deprive residents, patients and customers of the wellbeing and safety benefits of digital systems while waiting for a slightly different or improved version in the future?  Technology will always improve, but the step change from analogue to digital is so great that waiting simply short-changes those who could benefit immediately. Simply put, housing providers relying solely on traditional analogue technology are leaving themselves and their residents behind. It’s time to change, digital is now.

Appello’s Smart Living Solutions are now available through Consortium Procurement’s TECS procurement framework. This is the first digital service available via Lot1: Installation Services, providing members with greater choice and a reliable channel to procure a future-proofed solution.