The term ‘Digital Transformation’ has built up a lot of traction in the past few years in health and social care circles, and the pandemic has played no small part in this. Both 2020 and 2021 have added an unprecedented burden on care providers, putting many existing practices and systems to the test.
Where manual processes were prevalent, many found themselves asking more of their already strained human resources when firefighting against new challenges. This balancing act is not sustainable for care providers and staff and that’s where digitisation can help.
Introducing digital technology is about supporting and enabling those working within care, to do more with less. “Digital Transformation” can sound daunting but it is important to see technology as a tool to build on your current processes, not something alien that is imposed on a workforce.
Staff should feel more confident and capable with technology at their disposal, but many fear the large undertaking of ‘transformation’ and organisational change. Digitisation doesn’t have to be a leap, it can be small but sure steps to improvement, such as workflow automation.
What is workflow automation?
Workflow automation has broadly been described as technology that uses ‘rule-based logic’ to automate processes. The idea is that by identifying time-consuming, repetitive tasks that can become ‘self-operating’, the entire process will require fewer resources to produce equal or even improved results.
Digital technology, like workflow automation software, can help diminish errors and boost productivity, all while saving businesses time and money. At Haelu, we believe in the value that technology and digital tools can bring to care, but understand that to realise sustainable change it must come from within, read our blog about co-creation and social care reform here.
In the context of care, workflow automation can be part of a pragmatic approach to digitisation, encouraging buy-in for digital transformation by first making light changes to your existing process to solve daily challenges. With this approach, you are not completely ‘transforming’ your practice into something unrecognisable, but tweaking the parts of your existing business processes that can be improved.
Haelu has worked with Cliniconex to bring workflow automation software solutions to the UK, such as Automated Care Messaging (ACM). ACM is a care communication tool designed to streamline outreach to and coordination of families and staff. Working alongside a provider’s existing process, be it paper-based or paperless, ACM builds on what exists and can even integrate with existing digital tools, such as EHRs and care management systems. This means minimal disruption for staff and thus maximises adoption, ensuring efficiencies can be realised swiftly.
ACM provides reliability and reassurance, giving the home a more proactive and direct line to reach families or staff – on their preferred devices at any time. People have a range of preferences when it comes to communication. Some still prefer landline or telephone calls, others emails and some texts – ACM can accommodate for all of these without the need for providers to manually switch between methods. Finally, each communication (including a response from the recipient) is logged in the system, meaning homes are provided with a clean, auditable log of outreach, automating admin and maintaining compliance.
Why start with communication?
Good practice around communication is at the foundation of person-centred care. Keeping stakeholders frequently updated with proactive communication helps maintain trust and engagement.
In an emergency or urgent situation, the importance of accessible communication comes to the fore. It is key to navigating any incident, managing its risks, working towards resolutions, and reassuring those affected.
The pandemic saw key messages coming from the ‘top-down’ to care providers, who were then expected to translate and communicate to families, staff and their residents. Guidelines and enforcements from the Government and Local Authorities have varied greatly since the start of the pandemic, with information often being unclear and with little allowance for preparation, significantly disrupting both organisations and individuals.
In fact, it seems that much of the communication burden fell to care providers who sat in between regulators, government and families and were responsible for keeping each of them updated and reassured in any way they could.
To communicate effectively, you must accommodate for varying individual preferences and in doing so, dedicate more time to adapting the same message to a different medium. Among these methods, the most common include: calls, emails, letters, newsletters, social media channels and website updates. While some of these are even digital in nature, the issue is that the process behind them is manual, creating a sizable task each time communication has to be actioned.
Why automate communication?
Communication and coordination involve the repetitive and, critically, time-consuming cycle of planning, actioning (sending), dealing with responses and documenting what occurred. Many organisations have an informal communication process in place, often centring around a responsible individual, as such the process can be ad hoc and hard to audit, especially when the individual isn’t available/present.
Not only is this draining on resources, but overreliance on staff over systems opens the entire organisation up to inefficiencies such as unclear/inconsistent messaging and perhaps even record-keeping, affecting compliance across the board. Conversely, digital systems ensure sustainability even when short-handed on staff, maintaining a high quality of care and compliance.
“The Covid-19 situation has accelerated the move to digital in the way we communicate with our teams and with people we support and their families. I would suggest that staff, families and the people we support and care for will, from now on, expect more sophisticated means of communication and ways to be kept informed and participate in decisions.”
“I would suggest that staff, families and the people we support and care for will, from now on, expect more sophisticated means of communication and ways to be kept informed and participate in decisions.”
To some extent COVID has increased our digital connectivity by reducing our opportunities to interact in person, face-to-face, adapting our expectations when it comes to the delivery of important information. In the UK, it seems that care providers have had a much more difficult time with digital adoption. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was estimated that many homes (70%) still rely on paper-based methods for various parts of their operations, while more recently NHSX estimated around 40% of care providers were using a digital social care record or care management system. This indicates some signs of a shift toward digitisation, but there is plenty more to be done.
Director of Sales at Cliniconex, Darcy MacHale and Haelu’s MD, Paddy Gardner, spoke together at the Dementia, Care and Nursing Home Expo’s Digital Transformation online event about their approach to achieving digitisation through workflow automation. Take a look at their 15-minute chat on Digitising Emergency Preparedness and Communication Plans here.