ACRC

In January 2020, the University of Edinburgh and Legal & General announced a major partnership to improve understanding of care in later life and to revolutionise how it is delivered. The collaboration will establish the Advanced Care Research Centre (ACRC), a seven-year multi-disciplinary research programme and the first of its kind in the UK.

Legal & General is the UK’s largest pension fund investor and a leading provider of retirement products. The £20m agreement marks the University’s largest industry investment to be confirmed as part of the £661m Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) initiative, its key deliverable as a partner in the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

ACRC will combine research across fields including medicine and other care professions, life sciences, engineering, informatics, data and social sciences. The Institute for Design Informatics will play a key role in the human-centred aspects of the Centre, contributing to Work Package 4.4: Understanding the Person in Context / Value and Care within Informal Support Networks.

Care in later life is often framed in terms of statutory, private and third-sector health and social care, but this is only a fraction of the support that people in later life receive. Family, friends and peer networks provide a great deal of help whose value is largely unaccounted for. They often provide significant help in planned and ad-hoc ways that are not recognised financially (e.g. lifts to the hospital, picking up and administering drugs). Breakdown in informal care networks is often a trigger for unplanned transitions in care, leading to hospital and care home admission that would otherwise be avoided. Therefore, research is needed to capture the social, health and care benefits of an aging ecology within the informal networks that can support wellbeing and health.

In the past decade, a number of digital platforms and services have emerged that encourage sharing through building networks of reciprocity, and encouraging exchanges between groups of people. As such, data-driven services provide an opportunity for re-imagining informal and relational forms of care provided within and across families and communities, which could better account for the flow of social, environmental and economic value in these networks. This study will seek to both understand the forms of value that are exchanged to support the health and care of people in later life, and involve participants in the co-design of conceptual solutions that reconcile the economic and social value of care. The study will employ mixed-methods research with patient populations within the case-study communities, and from specific partner subsamples, to include families and carers, health and care workers, as well as businesses and service providers. It will develop rich understandings of people in later life understand and construct values, how these values map into personal socio-ecologies, and how data-driven technologies may support wellbeing and health in later life.

Research questions:

  1. What are the characteristics of informal health and care networks, and what are the multiple forms of value within them (social, environmental, economic, digital etc)? How are these values represented?
  2. To what extent is value commensurate across each network, where is it extracted, and what the leakages and barriers to a better flow?
  3. What models of value exchange within networks suggest improvement to wellbeing?
  4. How can data-driven technologies help older adults to construct and maintain informal networks of care? What would be socially-aware and culturally appropriate guidelines for design in this context?

The Centre will enable data-driven, personalised and affordable care that delivers independence, dignity and a high quality of life for people living in their own homes or in supported care environments.

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