In July this year Digital by Design joined forces with colleagues in Adult Social Care to undertake a Discovery for a Technology Enabled Care project. It is the first time that staff in Adult Social Care had been involved in a Discovery process and it proved to be challenging for us, but incredibly rewarding.

The project followed a successful bid to NHS Digital’s Social Care Digital Innovation program, which saw Stockport named as one of twelve local authorities to receive funding to explore how the use of technology could help shape the future of social care.

Maximising the impact of Technology Enabled Care

With increasing pressure on Adult Social Care services our Discovery aimed to identify a quick, easy and effective technological solution to keep residents safe and independent at home, avoiding the need to access more formal social care.  The project also aimed to increase the impact of our Technology Enabled Care (TEC) service and embed TEC as the first line of response.

The project team, including project management staff from Adult Social Care and a Service Designer and a Business Analyst from Digital by Design, worked closely together over 4 months to fully scope out the problem and to identify the solution.  This involved in depth user engagement by the Service Designer, who used innovative methods to engage with residents and carers to understand what their experiences of the service were and to map their user journey.

The Business Analyst spoke with Adult Social Care staff and the providers of the Council’s Telecare service to understand their current process and to analyse current data sets which helped to build the bigger picture and to identify key trends and barriers.

Validating potential solutions

Following on from this process of user engagement, potential solutions were identified from the key findings, allowing the project team to agree a final solution which was then validated with users. For us in Adult Social Care who were new to this approach it was hard initially to not just come up with a solution at the beginning of the process, which is often the traditional approach that we follow.

The process taught us to embrace uncertainty and to be flexible and adaptable in our approach.  The use of the “double diamond” approach was key for the project team here in terms of looking wide to gather and interpret the information before focussing back in on the problem to avoid us going off on a tangent.

Image source: Thoughtworks

We have now submitted our bid to NHS Digital and the Local Government Association detailing our Discovery process and outlining the solution proposed.  We are waiting to hear if we have been successful in securing funding to enable us to implement our solution.

Even if we aren’t successful, we’ve gained so much from working in this new way. Embarking on a Discovery was hugely beneficial in producing a wealth of useful data for the service that can be addressed as part of future projects and can be applied to the forthcoming TEC strategy.  It led to a much better understanding of the TEC service, highlighting the true scale of current issues.  The combination of a Service Designer and Business Analyst working together on the project helped us to build a broad picture of both the service and the user journeys and to deliver a true Discovery.

It’s true to say that we didn’t know what to expect from the Discovery process and although it has been challenging at times, it has proved a highly valuable experience. Now we’ve learned this way of approaching a project, we believe that user-centred design is an extremely important asset for the Council and we will try to build in this way of working going forward.