How easy is digitalisation in social care?

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With the ageing population, funding crisis and staff shortages, the care sector is desperate for efficiency and quality aids. In this respect, digitalisation is an important avenue for social care to explore. Some might say this is an easy enough road to take and at Sekoia, we agree with them.

In our opinion, putting technology to use in care settings can help resolve some of the issues that social care is facing. In diminishing the burden of paperwork, quality and efficiency improvements can be made.

The backdrop is beautifully grey and complex

By 2037, we are set to reach a landmark population of 73 million people, with a fair chunk of us aged over 65. Although the size of the workforce will increase as people work for longer, further pressure will be put on social care services. With Brexit looming and the number of nurses joining from EU countries dropping by 96% a year after the vote, the sector is likely to be facing more problems in an already difficult workforce arena.

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Find your reason to go digital

Retaining and attracting staff remains a key challenge for most care providers. Digitalisation must play a part in sexing-up the care sector and modernising its dated image, so that more people are encouraged to (re-)join the workforce. As for the actual job, not many people become nurses or care workers to complete paperwork. Workplaces that offer valuable face-to-face time with clients will see more applicants, and a rise in employee satisfaction levels.

Efficiency and economising are other reasons to digitalise. Freeing-up time for staff to perform actual care work can result in cost savings for the business. For example, in Warwickshire-based Quinton House Nursing Home, end of shift documentation has been reduced by 1.5 hours per carer, per shift. That is a significant reduction, over time amounting to a return on investment in both the quality and efficiency of care.

The increasing number of audits and inspections in social care can also be helped with the use of digital. Getting ready for an audit or inspection is a stressful affair for most operators. However, embracing digital care planning, for example, should result in a quicker, easier and more automated workflow for evidencing care delivery. Sekoia helps providers using any framework, linking single observations and activities regarding a client to their respective care planning records. This turns the recording of information and documenting of details into a natural part of care work, rather than a time-consuming task of its own. Generating audit trails by utilising readily available data is a must when getting rid of the ring-binders.

Culture eats digitalisation for breakfast

Looking across the 130+ digital care planning implementations Sekoia has carried out, the biggest challenge seems to be culture. Fostering positive beliefs and behaviours, and offering rules and rewards are the fundamental keys to getting your staff to engage in a digital project.

What does this mean? Ultimately, that you shouldn’t leave anyone behind. At least, not if you want them to take part. This is why we believe in a tailored process, set out to show the direction the business is moving in and to get employee buy-in. By asking and answering the question ‘why are we digitalising?’, articulating staff benefits and finding incentives, culture can work in favour of digitalisation.

Myth busting the misconceptions

With all the hype, and certainly all the suppliers lined up for the paper-to-computer conversion, the pace is high and for some this can result in bad experiences. Three concerns seem to linger when businesses are looking at digitalisation.

‘It is too difficult for our staff’

Maybe influenced by less fortunate stories, some seem to believe that care homes aren’t as tech savvy as other industries. This is really not the case in our experience. Whilst some people say that care staff aren’t able to learn new technologies, we believe that it’s actually the prerequisites in terms of time allocated to learning, guides and teaching that is missing.

‘There is no return on investment’

Early stage digitalisation talks a lot about return on investment. This is natural and should be addressed by the supplier. They should prove their worth, although not in the sense of proving the efficiency of emails over letters – it should go deeper than that. Continuously proving the value of digital will help to open the eyes of a bigger group of followers, but first it requires the visionaries.

‘What about GDPR?’

For many, the switch from paper to digital comes with reservations. What if the system fails? What if we get hacked?

Honestly? Stuff happens. However, most solutions today are cloud-based, operate redundantly and have strict processes in place for data security. It’s a must when developing a digital solution. Arguably, paper records in the loft and servers in the cellar are less safe. And they aren’t as efficient in terms of storage and usage.

5 ways to secure a smooth transition

Coming back to culture, a very sound place to begin your digital journey is by answering why you want to embark on it in the first place. If you are able to, set out the aims as a unified management team and communicate to the rest of the team where you are heading, including what role digitisation will play.

  • Ensure your clearly stated premises for why you are going digital.
  • Recognise that technologies are supporting people, rather than the opposite.
  • Focus on “need to have” rather than the “nice to have” benefits.
  • Acknowledge that digitalisation is a profound shift in the way your organisation is working. Give your staff the time and space to learn.

Do not regard the implementation process as done when the technology has been unwrapped. It requires the continued focus of the entire organisation to really reap the benefits.