Digitisation in Aged Care
Software, Computers and gadgets are a huge & inseparable part of our society. We literally rely on computers to pretty much do most of our work now, to keep our records and bring efficiency in the workplace.
Today, there are thousands of programs and apps available that provide great functionalities and task-specific technology to support the healthcare industry. Being part of the aged care industry, I come across various software packages and technologies that have really made a significant impact on how aged care providers operate.
While, having multiple software options provide us with the flexibility to pick and choose a suitable solution for a specific facility/department, it also creates a dilemma in deciding which of that product is the right solution. Each software has its benefits and limitations. How to compare various products, what to look for in software, what are the parameters to evaluate software potential, and what are dos and dont’s while choosing or implementing a software package.
Here’s my view on software implementation in aged care
One common issue in aged care is the expectation of one software providing solutions for all departments. If not, then each software systems need to be interconnected or integrated.
As a company, it is important to identify the specific requirements for each department and at the same time acknowledge that each department speaks and understands a different language. Expecting one software to provide relative information to each department is no different than expecting one manager to do finance, hospitality services, maintenance requests, rosters, timesheet, payroll, and even lifestyle duties. Remember, software are only as smart as human make them.
Each department manipulates and uses the same information in different ways to serve its individual purpose. For Example, at the time of admission, basic diet information is entered into nursing software about a resident. Even though the catering department receives the same information, the chefs have to manipulate the same data in a way that is more feasible for them to understand and provide meals and beverages.
We must realise that there are two aspects to any form of this information. First, if all relative information is available for someone to view, and second, if the format of the information is practically possible to use to provide services to our residents. As a management, it is important to have all information available at all times but as a person who is working at the grassroots level, it is important to have the same information in the right format.
Hence, treating each department as a separate entity and sourcing specific solutions for each department is important.
The first box to tick while choosing a software package is the user experience. There is no point in having a software that is technologically most advanced and provides all sorts of information if the users don’t find it easy to operate and easy to navigate. While we see a demonstration of the software, the person providing the demonstration is very tech savvy and is aware of the system inside out. However, the staff who will use the system on daily basis, have different levels of computer skills and have limited knowledge on how computers work. Even though most of the software companies provide initial training as part of the package, it is imperative that we choose a system that is easy to use and understand. Otherwise, the moment a new batch of staff is employed, management will end up spending more money and resources to train the staff. One common solution the majority of the software companies provide is user manuals. Please note that user manuals are supposed to be a point of reference when a particular feature/functionality needs to be looked at. User manuals are not there to train the staff on software. Just imagine if we all had to read a user manual on how to set & use an iPhone. We only look at user manual when we don’t understand a particular feature.
Ease of implementation (Basically Plug and Play)
Software is supposed to make our lives easier by doing things for us and not creating more work for us. A sign of good software is that even though it is technologically advanced and has thousands of features, it has minimum IT & infrastructural requirements to roll out. I have noticed many companies rolling out software and spending months over months just to address technical requirements. It is understandable that rolling out any software on a large scale and training a large number of staff takes time but the software itself needs to be easily implemented on technical aspects.
Software needs to have the flexibility to meet the requirements of the individual company. Each company has different policies and procedures, the software needs to be flexible enough to merge reasonably well within those policies and procedures. It is not ideal to create new policies and procedures and completely change staff routines to accommodate software requirements. A software is supposed to accommodate the policies not the other way around.
Many softwares provide multiple additional features at extra cost. In some instances, a particular additional feature works only with specific products purchased from the software company. This is where the analysis of requirements comes into play. If a company has performed a detailed analysis of requirements then the majority of that requirements should come as a standard in the software package. A company should not have to spend additional money, time and resources to meet the basic requirements. If there is no software available in the market that meets the majority of the “must-have features” then it’s worth considering developing a customised solution and owing the product outright rather than paying additional money.
Security & Privacy
This is one area that most companies are very particular about. Data security and backups are a very essential aspect of any computer program. Having said that we need to be mindful of how much and how many levels of security we are providing. Sometimes the systems are so deeply secured that to even make a small change demands involvement from various individuals. We need to identify which information needs to be strictly secured and which features and functionality needs to be made available for users to change.
Ongoing tech support is crucial. Users need to be able to resolve a query by picking up a phone and without being kept on hold for long time or having to leave a msgs on answering machine. I suggest staying away from companies that say if you need us we are available on email.
In my opinion, digitisation is not just storing all the data on computer and being able to retrieve it from a computer. Digitisation requires a great deal of research and attention to detail. There are many softwares out there that provide flexibility of changing the information on computers but when it comes to actually using the information, it needs to go paper. It makes absolutely no sense if implementing a software does not help reduce printing and paper costs. This is where all the above-mentioned points (Ease of use, Data security, specific information available at click of mouse or touch of button, no need for huge IT set ups & reduced additional costs) need to be ticked for any system to be completely digital.
It is definitely worth spending money upfront to implement a system that eliminated the majority of paper and printing costs. It not only helps financially but also helps a great deal to save the environment. Aged care is such a large sector and saving a paper / printing is one of the greatest contribution we can make toward the environment.
Follow Up Evaluation
It is a very crucial yet very much neglected aspect of software implementation process. As mentioned earlier, softwares are supposed to make life easier and helps us improve the workplace. Once a software has been rolled out and been used for a while, a detailed survey from the majority of users is very important. Implementing software should either bring efficiency or save cost or both. Every user uses the same software for different purposes and hence only is aware of certain benefits and limitations. A senior management is usually only aware of what kind of reports are generated and what information is available on the system however the staff at the facility level are aware of how easy or difficult it is to use & maintain that information. Sometimes staff using the system on regular basis are still working with their own homemade, traditional paper-based system and the information formats that they have used for years. This is the last scenario any company wants to be in. Management spends lots of money and resources in implementing a system and it needs be justified by staff gaining more efficiency and cost savings.
Overall, in my opinion it is important that as a company, we implement software and systems that serve our purpose on all levels of operation. A well thought out, greatly designed software turns a good workplace into a better workplace and a good service provider into a better service provider.