4 lessons from the digital transformation of these care providers
As care homes and care organisations were sprung into the middle of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the case for digital transformation became less a question of if to do it, but when.
Fast forward to life beyond the initial lockdowns, restrictions and extreme uncertainty and hundreds of care homes just like yours are looking at investing in digital transformation to run your organisation better and focus on what really matters.
There are enormous opportunities to increase efficiencies using digital tools and better focus on resident or tenant care.
But where should a care home start? And what are the lessons from operators just like you who have undertaken a digital transformation journey?
Geraint Thomas from Guided Innovation recently teamed up with Graham Care owner Ernie Graham, Brandon Trust support worker John Robinson and locality manager Gareth Williams for a panel discussion on the lessons from recent digital transformation journeys and share insights into what they wish they knew.
Here are three things your care organisation should think about.
It’s normal to be anxious
As a support worker focused on looking after clients, John Robinson is the first to admit some anxiousness among staff when a new tool is implemented. He’s normally an if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it kind of person.
But as many care home operators and staff know all too well, sometimes rapid change at work needs a rapid response from the team, and that’s where John says the support staff started to see the real benefits of digital tools and transformation.
“We were asked to test a digital rostering tool on behalf of Brandon Trust and in the beginning there was a lot of anxiety and concern,” John says.
“I tried to be there for my team and support people, because I do like technology and thought it could be a good tool for us to use.”
But it didn’t long for opinions to shift and the tool was put into practice.
“We were put into a situation – just coincidental timing – where our hours were suddenly doubled, the demands were plenty and there were a lot of changes within the team,” John says.
“We had no choice but to work in unison and to work with this app.”
Centralised communication lets people focus on what matters
ohn also says using the app to communicate meant the team could focus its attention on work.
“We were using email – which I thought was fine – but there’s too much jargon so we used the app to centralise everything,” John says.
“Everything was just in a group chat that was protected. No long emails with Dear Such and Such and it wasn’t in something like Messenger.
“It had fantastic results. By embracing it and taking the time to help the team get comfortable before the changes came in, we were then able to communicate quickly and easily with bank workers which was great.”
John also says the implementation of digital tools lets the team focus on person-centred care.
“So many times, we hear people do not have the time they need to do admin or paperwork, but we really saw, as part of this test, the positive impact digital tools can have on person-centred care,” John says.
“By spending less time on admin and more time with the people you’re meant to be looking after, you can really strengthen someone’s care plan.”
Ernie Graham says digital communication helped keep people safe, separate and up-to-date as things changed quickly amid COVID.
“COVID means that things have had to be done a lot more quickly. Whether that’s in keeping people safe and separate as advice changed, using care planning software for shifts or even just making sure friends and family can log in through digital tools when they cannot be there physically,” Ernie says.
“It’s a benefit to people and it’s been very reassuring.
“Rather than congregating around a noticeboard to see when their shifts are, staff can get it instantly on their phone – and that’s obviously very good from a social distancing point of view!”
Gareth Wililams agrees and says digital communication tools help keep team culture strong and connected.
“At the outset of COVID, there was obviously the risk that it could lead to more closed cultures or silos of information in an organisation,” Gareth says.
“It also had the potential to reduce the amount of feedback coming from residents, so we were then able to use digital communications tools to keep in touch with residents when we could not be there physically and keep up that all-important contact.
“From there, once the residents were comfortable using it we were able to bring in their families and support workers such as physios to make sure communication was as easy and free-flowing as possible.”
COVID has changed the game for digital compliance
While it’s always difficult to predict the changing requirements of assessment and quality assurance in care, Gareth says the implementation of digital tools to complement that compliance is inevitable.
“People are going to want to see things like assessment information live, to go on to the CQC website and understand how an organisation is performing live rather than looking at its most-recent report,” Gareth says.
“I think it’s pretty clear that the ongoing assessment process will react to risks as they happen rather than a big inspection every two or three years,” Ernie says.
“If that is the way the world is going, then having your compliance information available digitally is going to be really important. Add to that the ability to meet your KPIs to show people is also going to be important and something prospective users of your service will look for.”
So what would this mean for a care organisation which hasn’t embraced digital solutions?
Ernie believes it will result in additional business costs.
“It would mean big management overheads,” Ernie says.
“The real benefit comes when you can connect systems together. Technology is improving all the time with things like an open API to share information so you can really have it all in one place.
“My advice to someone starting their digital journey is to embrace it and keep going. When you have only got so far and then there are still some manual processes within your business you are effectively running two systems and that just chews up a lot of time.
“It’s an opportunity to be continuously accountable and create even more open cultures with information sharing in your organisation. And this will help us serve our more vulnerable clients even better.”
Streamlined systems create efficiency
Running a quality care organisation requires a lot of admin, Gareth says. And the unexpected benefits of digital staff planning tools means that people – whether they are carers or in management – spend less time focused on paperwork and more time with the resident or tenant.
“The real benefit is the efficiency that comes when some communication is cut out,” Gareth says.
“We see now that when someone is on shift they don’t have to worry about trying to find their manager to request things like annual leave, sick leave or changes to the shift pattern – and this has had a really positive impact on support for the people we look after.
“It also meant staff could communicate with each other, with management and with staff from other services without the burden of an email.
“That really sped things up – which is something every care organisation can benefit from.”
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