The financial pressures on local government have possibly never been more intense than they are today.
But the need to cut costs and explore new ways of delivering services is proving to be a catalyst for innovation.
As councils seek more costefficient ways of meeting their citizens’ needs, attention is focusing on the potential of digital media to improve the services.
An area of particular importance is how the use of the right technology can give councils a real-time insight into what services people need, and how such knowledge can benefit both citizens and local authorities.
An area where such insight is likely to be particularly valuable is in the sphere of adult social care. The right intervention at the right time can help reduce the impact on horizontal pathways of people with long-term conditions, whose support might typically involve GPs, hospitals, care professionals and more.
By using new technology that harnesses the power of social media, it is possible to engage directly, encouraging the use of preventative services that may avoid more expensive interventions.
For example: a daughter tweets her concerns about her elderly mother, who has been discharged from hospital.
How, the daughter wonders, can she balance caring for her mum while going to work?
What if her mother had a fall when there was nobody else in the house?
Let’s assume the council’s digital contact centre has a system that monitors Twitter conversations, and ‘discharged from hospital’ is a key phrase that it responds to.
So the social care team automatically sends the daughter a tweet with a link to a website that focuses on care pathways for older people, where she finds the services that best suit her mother’s needs and even has the opportunity for a webchat with a social care professional.
Such a personalised but low-cost tailored service could reduce the need for expensive interventions and it’s all put in place before the daughter has even thought of going for help – just one example of the innovative changes digital technology can offer.
Forward-thinking councils are already piloting this type of technology as a means of improving services and reducing costs. Yet the real challenge comes when a successful pilot is rolled out and needs to be integrated across a multi-channel, multiagency environment.
Ensuring a consistent customer experience is essential and will require all involved to put the citizen at the heart of the service design.
The technology exists to support customer journeys that are as unique as the individuals who embark on them. The business case for innovation speaks for itself.
Nigel Bates, strategic development director
Special feature supplied by SERCO