Written by Matt Dykes
Customer Support Engineer
There are many software solutions out there so the thought of taking your care home digital can be quite daunting. I am a Support Engineer for a company that produces care home management software. Now I’m not trying to sell you our product. I will, however, try to convince you that a software solution is the right path to take. Why? Because we live in the digital age and it’s important to embrace these new tools and truly understand how much of a benefit each of them has. I see first-hand the benefits that technology brings to care homes everyday through my role in supporting customers. Because of this I gain an insight into how our customers are using technology to increase productivity and how it allows them to do things that would be impossible without it.
It’s a particularly pertinent point currently, as the world we are living in makes delivering care to the most vulnerable more difficult, yet more important than ever. Technology shouldn’t incite fear, it’s something that needs to be embraced. My worry is that too many care staff see technology as an extra burden that will not help but hinder them. This is the opposite and unfortunately that mindset leads to resentment of the technology when staff are ultimately forced to adopt it. As I only have experience of the software that our company produces, I can only relate my points to how our system works, but there are many great systems out there, that you can explore.
A big part of our implementation process is working with teams to give them the confidence to use a keypad over a pen. It’s important for businesses in the care sector to adopt technology available, but also help them to understand the benefits of technology. This way, instead of building resentment to the technology, staff embrace it and realise that it isn’t something to fear. Hopefully by reading this article, others will see the helping hand that care home management software can offer.
Unless you’ve been extraordinarily lucky, the challenges that have been presented by the outbreak of COVID-19 should be plain to see. New legislation and real-world events are continuing to present new challenges in a sector that already cries out for more digitalisation. Just from an administration standpoint the old-fashioned way of paper records grinds productivity to a halt and makes home working impossible. The simple task of pulling out a resident record can take minutes when really, that information should be deliverable in seconds. This is where technology can really help.
Software solutions allow you to store resident and staff records in one easily accessible location, it also gives you the ability to control what information people can view. A locked filing cabinet may seem secure but if you hand over the keys to someone, they have access to everything in the cabinet. With software, you can specify what information each user can view. If you want a user to be able to view contact details but not financial details, you can restrict their access accordingly. Software increases the speed of finding information: in a matter of seconds you can access a resident’s record and bring up their Next of Kin contact information. This is particularly important in an emergency. If a resident has taken ill – especially if your home has been affected by a COVID19 outbreak – you can access that data quickly, without even needing to be in the home itself!
Not only can you bring up individual contact information, but you can easily download all Next of Kin contact information for your home to enable you to send announcements in bulk email. Again, due to the reporting available thanks to software, you can access this information in seconds, in a mail mergeable format. To compile that manually, with all the up to date information, could take over an hour.
The way that technology can simplify day-to-day Care Home administration is astounding. If you have zero technology, only using paper records and manual time and attendance, you would be surprised by the amount of time that is being wasted. Even something as simple as time and attendance when utilising a software solution can save hours of work each week. You can have an electronic clocking in machine which sends staff clock times directly onto a digital timesheet. This will take you a fraction of the time to check because it’s all presented to you on the timesheet in real time.
Whilst my points above may seem like small items, when you look collectively at how much time they all take manually compared to the help of software, the time suddenly starts adding up. For example, considering the mass email to Next of Kin mentioned above. Once you’ve got the contact details in seconds, all you need to do is copy the email addresses and paste them into the BCC bar of your email service and send the email. Without software in place the same task would take hours of looking through paper records to find Next of Kin contact details and if they are handwritten the actual email address might not be that clear either. If you have 5 or 6 tasks a week where software takes minutes, compared to hours manually, you can be saving a full working day worth of time on these small things every week.
The administrative side is not the only element of care home operation that can benefit from software solutions, care planning can be streamlined when implementing a software solution as well. Instead of having huge folders of paper records you have one searchable record. This allows you to view the entire care plan record for the resident’s entire stay in the home or search for specific dates or events. When you are requested to provide information for what happened on a specific day software will not only help you locate the information quickly but also make it easier to transmit the requested information. No longer would you have to scan or photocopy piles of paper records, you would just export the record as a file and send it to the requester electronically.
I know what many people will be thinking, “All this sounds brilliant, but it will take so long to get all this implemented and I don’t just have the time?” I’m not going to sugar coat any of this, yes, at first there will be a period of time where you need to do some level of data entry. The specific amount of time varies dependant on how you implement, size of the homes and how many homes in your company. However, even though there is a little work involved in setting the software up, the time it saves you later down the line massively outweighs that initial effort. You don’t have to go 100% digital in your records either, if you want to minimise set up. You can just upload the current resident records and leave any discharged records as paper ones for archive purposes, which can be destroyed after your retention period has passed.
There isn’t just the time to but also the initial expense as well. However, the initial set up costs would be made back very quickly in how much time will be saved. Even if you are a single care home with one computer in the whole building you will have everything to start implementing a care home software-based management system. Most software providers operate on a monthly subscription and whilst it will increase your outgoings the money that will be saved in time will greatly outweigh the obvious cost. It’s a cliché saying but “time is money” and turning a thirty-minute job into ten seconds is a huge cost saving exercise in anyone’s book.
The biggest hurdle to adoption is not time or money, it is still the fear of technology. That is to be expected because as humans we fear the unknown. However, if we educate ourselves and learn to embrace these new technologies the benefits of using them can be so obvious that you’ll wonder how you coped without them. As someone who was born in the 1980’s I remember a time where a mobile phone was a big lump of plastic that you had for emergencies. Now our lives depend on them for so much. Embrace technology and very quickly you’ll wonder why you spent so long avoiding it.