In many ways, making the business case for digital telecare is the easy part. There are numerous reasons for housing providers to upgrade their current systems, including the clear benefits this offers over traditional telecare along with external factors, such as the changes to the UK telecoms network. Making the transition a reality, however, can feel more challenging.
There are several elements to consider, from pinpointing your requirements to understanding your options and evaluating different solutions. Creating a project plan that covers all of these is an essential first step.
The following areas give a useful starting point to help you get the transition underway. These focus on the key issues and questions you need to address to ensure your digital telecare project meets both your organisation’s and your customers’ needs.
1. Be proactive – the time is now!
The important message is to get going with your digital telecare project as soon as you can.
For some housing providers, there may be a sense that there is still plenty of time to deal with the transition to digital telecare.
This is partly due to the much-touted 2025 deadline for turning off the analogue telecoms network, which has been somewhat misleading. Work is actually well underway and already completed in some areas of the UK. Waiting until your area is directly affected may be tempting but it’s tricky to know exactly when this will be, as it depends on a number of variables.
In addition, some organisations are debating the impact the switch to digital will have on telecare services in practice, perhaps weighing up the chances that analogue equipment will still work or can be retrofitted with a digital converter.
However, we can see from an increase in reports of issues relating to the analogue to digital migration that it’s risky to hope analogue equipment will operate properly over a digital network.
Moreover, some telecoms providers already have ‘stop sells’ in place, with others planning this from 2023. The TSA’s latest guidance is that the purchasing of analogue-only alarm units must cease now.
Analogue telecare equipment is essentially becoming obsolete – it is not going to be supported, maintenance will become much more expensive and telecare services relying on this will not be as reliable or safe.
With all this in mind, taking a proactive approach to your digital telecare project is going to make the process much easier than waiting until your hand is forced.
2. Do your research
While the issues above can lend a sense of urgency to your digital telecare project, it’s vital to make sure that you research and plan this properly so you can be confident you are opting for the right solution.
This is the time to:
– Make sure you understand what digital telecare is and what it covers
– Take stock of your current telecare services
– Investigate your options to see what solutions are available
– Carry out customer research to determine their needs and expectations
– Learn from others’ experiences
– Be aware of best practice
3. Think about your objectives
Digital telecare is a broad area but you will need to get specific in order to deliver a successful project. Define the scope for this at the outset and be clear about what you want to achieve.
One core objective is likely to be ensuring the safety of your telecare services, particularly in light of the changes to the telecoms network.
But you can also look beyond this to explore how your move to digital presents an opportunity to enhance your services and empower your customers, as well as improving your operations and increasing efficiency.
When you are drawing up your requirements, consider your longer-term plans and commitments alongside the immediate needs and practicalities. Ask how digital technology can support and enable these aims.
4. Get the essentials right
There will be many factors influencing your choice of digital telecare. However, there are several fundamental aspects to be aware of, relating to the safety, reliability and compatibility of the equipment and systems.
Key questions to ask potential suppliers include:
– Does the equipment meet relevant safety standards?
– Can the equipment connect to your monitoring centre – and is the monitoring centre fully digital?
– Can the equipment work with equipment from other suppliers – or are you locked into one supplier for all elements of your digital telecare services?
– How is data security handled?
5. Is your solution future proof?
Digital telecare is an investment that has the potential to pay dividends: not only in helping you to streamline processes and improve your customer service now, but also by giving you the right foundation to incorporate further innovations later on.
Whatever your reasons for moving to digital telecare, it’s important to think about what you may need in the future. This is the difference between opting for digital replacement vs digital transformation.
Simply swapping your analogue equipment to meet the minimum requirements for digital is often a false economy, as it can restrict your capabilities further down the line.
By working with a supplier who can help link your digital and corporate strategies, you can implement a flexible solution, with a clear pathway to build on your digital systems when you’re ready.
How to plan your digital telecare project
Working through the elements above is a useful place to begin when planning your digital telecare project. This should also feed into your procurement process, so that you can provide potential suppliers with a clear idea of your requirements.
We’ve put together a guide looking at the planning and procurement process for your digital telecare project in more detail. This covers: the key areas to consider when getting started; how to define your objectives, identify key stakeholders and create a project plan; assessing your options; choosing a supplier; evaluating different digital solutions; and future proofing.