Person-centred informatics in social care


This article was published in the Institute of Health and Social Care Management e-magazine on 1 October 2021. You can find out more about the IHSCM, including information on how to join here

A carer, a registered manager, a nurse, a social worker, an occupational therapist, a business analyst, a support worker, an admin assistant – the roles that use informatics in social care is almost endless. The issue is that not many use the word informatics, even if it is key part of our jobs.

Using technology and digital more broadly is becoming more and more common place across the sector. Think monitoring a resident’s hydration levels, using information to prevent risk of falls, using apps to engage with friends and families, creating specific COVID19 care plans, use of acoustic monitoring, passive sensor technology for residents, integrated health and care information…and so on. 

The list of examples is endless, the point is that informatics is a term to describe the analysis, use of and reflection of technology. It’s also a way of practising in a person-centred way, thinking about using tech in ways that best suit people and connecting with others through an exciting career pathway. There has been a significant technological revolution over the last 15 years so it’s absolutely right that those who are working in social care and those receiving care are empowered to make clear decisions about what is the right tech for them. In the same way that the way we talk and engage with people can be more or less person centred – the exact same principle applies to the way we think about, implement and use technology. No one wants a clunky bit of kit that doesn’t work – informatics can play a central role in guiding people through these decisions. 

The drive for digital tech in social care is likely to increase – so the sector needs people who understand both care and tech whether you’re a front-line worker, analyst, manager or board member. The challenge is how we connect, engage and empower people. As a social worker I didn’t receive any training in informatics, my network of support has come through my membership of the Faculty of Clinical Informatics and British Computer Society. Likewise, IHSCM and FEDIP also exist to help support people interested in informatics to shape how technology is used in social care.

The ability to connect with fellow professionals, share ideas, learn from each other and understand what good person-centred informatics looks like is invaluable. We know the choices facing care organisations can be intimidating and many can’t afford to get it wrong. Being part of a community of likeminded ‘informaticians’ offers the sector a very tangible effective platform for peer learning. 

We know there are informaticians galore throughout social care, it’s just that they don’t identify as ones. Given the rapid rate of healthcare developments as well as time and financial pressures understanding how informatics improves care outcomes is key to how social care engages with care in an increasingly digitised world. Social care informatics presents an opportunity to truly tell the story of the value of social care and how it enriches lives. Active communities of social care informaticians can and need to play a significant role going forward to ensure this happens.

Tommy Henderson-Reay

Digital Transformation Lead | National Care Forum

Registered Social Worker | Faculty of Clinical Informatics Member |

Vice Chair – Social Care | British Computer Society