Caption: Quikplan managing director Nick Patrick (right), with account and social marketing manager Brad Coleman.
It’s late. You’ve just spent several hours planning next week’s schedule of client visits, creating invoices and calculating your payroll. But that’s not all you’ve had to do today; you’ve also had to check appointment attendances with managers and staff, calculate mileage between calls so you can factor that into the payroll, and track down carers to cover unattended calls.
You sit back and think, “carrying out complex administrative tasks is not the reason I entered the care industry”. What I should be focusing most of my time on, you think, is providing high quality home care services that support the lives of my customers so they can live independent lives.
This situation is at the heart of Quickplan’s mission: to automate time-consuming domiciliary care processes to make caring for your clients, easier, cheaper and more transparent, all the while reinforcing CQC compliance.
Quikplan was one of the first companies to introduce home care software in the early noughties and now it is rebranding itself as a “one-stop shop” for the sector as it looks to provide a more comprehensive service to make care agencies’ jobs more cost effective and hassle free.
“The care industry is being squeezed tighter and tighter financially and there isn’t any real support from the government to fund the changes,” says Quikplan founder and managing director Nick Patrick.
“What we want to do is to try and help by providing a rounded service where agencies can cut down their administration by having one go-to company.”
Patrick created the first feature in the Quikplan programme – automated invoice processing – nearly two decades ago, but he didn’t intentionally go into the software business to make money. His mum and sister had started a home care agency and he wanted to help them out.
“My mum had worked in homecare for 30-odd years – she worked for Worcester Social Services – and my sister is a registered nurse, so they decided to set an agency up,” he reflects.
“They were working away and as I looked at the processes I was thinking that what they were doing was so slow and long-winded, so I said I’ll have a go at writing something to make it easier for you to get your invoices out.
“So I did that and then another agency saw it and said ‘we really like that, can we buy it?’ Well, I hadn’t even thought about selling it, but I agreed, I gave them a price and it just went from there. That was about 17 years ago and we are still selling them.”
It’s important that agencies know that the carers are doing their job because why should they pay for someone to go and do a job if they are not doing it?
The choice for home care software was minimal when Patrick started the company, but now the market is highly competitive and Quikplan has had to adapt.
“It think the marketplace, as far as software goes, has reached maturity because now that people know what these software packages can do, it’s expected,” says Patrick.
“We can’t bang on about invoicing and wages now because it’s almost expected that that’s what it’s going to do. It’s how well it does it that’s really important, but there’s a lot of people out there doing similar things.”
A total solution
In order to stand out from the crowd, Quikplan is now focused on offering a total solution for the home care industry, providing agencies everything they need to improve their compliance, administrative tasks and staff monitoring.
For instance, the company has created two methods in which care agencies can easily track appointment attendance.
One such method is QuikCheck, a straightforward system where the carer dials a free number using the service user’s home phone. They are then greeted with a message and prompted to enter the client’s unique PIN code. The agency then knows they have arrived, and they do the same when they leave.
The other is QuickPlan mobile, a mobile phone app which uses Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology to allow carers to log in and out of visits to confirm attendance, and access essential information that they need to cover their visits.
Providers can’t afford to get a bad CQC rating and they can’t afford to get fined by HMRC. So it’s really important that they are on the ball and that these systems are in place.
Quikplan supplies NFC identity tags that are placed in the home, the carers then log in and out by swiping their phone over the tags when they enter and leave the service user’s home. Call monitoring is then confirmed and pushed to Quikplan whereby the visit rotas are updated with actual visit times.
If the care worker loses signal at a visit, they can still clock in and out. This is because the information is stored on the device, so as soon as they have signal, the information is synchronised.
“The agency can see exactly where all your carers are, on their screen, and also, it records their GPS location so you can see where they have been,” says Patrick.
“That might sound a bit like Big Brother, but it’s there to protect the care workers,” he explains.
“We had once instance when a carer was accused of stealing from a woman’s home, but the agency looked back through the records and they saw through the GPS that she couldn’t have possibly been in that area when she was accused,” recalls Patrick.
“It’s also important that care agencies know that the carers are doing their job because why should they pay for someone to go and do a job if they are not doing it?”
QuikPlan Mobile also displays the care worker’s appointments for the current and following day. These lists of appointments are linked to the main QuikPlan Schedule Expert database, so when a coordinator changes an appointment, the care worker receives those changes almost immediately.
Plus, it displays the service user’s address, contact details, the service being provided and task notes.
“The carer might have to help get the service user out of bed, give them a wash, make them breakfast, give them their medication – there’s a list of things and the carer can tick them off,” explains Patrick.
And because Quikplan supplies the app, it also supplies phones, which are built in with mobile device management (MDM). This is so the phone can only be used for home care tasks and if the phone gets stolen, Quikplan can turn it off and wipe its information immediately.
More recently, Quikplan has built on its offering with the launch of a home care shop to meet providers’ daily needs.
The shop, which is being expanded, currently sells gloves, aprons, hand gels and NFC tags.
“At the end of the day, buying gloves is not super exciting, but if you are working on your Quikplan programme and you can use the ‘Shop’ tab to buy them there and then, and then go back to what you were doing, that saves you a lot of time and effort. If we can provide a more complete solution then that will benefit the providers,” says Patrick.
It could be anyone’s mum or dad that needs support and these providers are just not funded properly.
Brad Coleman, Quikplan account and social marketing manager, adds: “The shop is really easy to use; you just click on what you want to order and you don’t have to type any details in because it’s linked to your account and it goes straight onto your invoice. All of our customers have access to the shop, but the biggest thing now is making our clients aware that we have those things and we can make their lives easier.”
Quikplan has also recently introduced an auto-allocation system within the programme that automatically assigns a carer in the right place based on their location, experience, training, personality and the client’s gender preference.
“If a client really doesn’t get along with a specific carer, for whatever reason, we can make it so we don’t match them, so it won’t let you match that client to that carer. Then, on the other hand, a client might really like a specific carer and that carer will always come up top,” says Coleman.
“It doesn’t just match according to personality, it’s also geographical,” says Patrick. “We have a matrix of where everybody is, in terms of postcodes, and every scenario of where they could possibly be. So when an agency takes on a new member of staff or a new service user, it adds their details to the matrix and then the matrix works out the quickest way for the carer to get from A to B,” he explains.
“So they don’t have to send someone who is half way across town when there is a carer around the corner. It works out economically, in terms of travel pay.”
People don’t go into home care for the money; they do it because they genuinely care and they want to make a difference.
Another update to Quikplan’s features is a bespoke care plan assessment, which is now available through the Clients tab.
“The assessment option has a body map on it, so you can actually click on the body, where the ailment might be. It then says what the ailment is and how to treat it and you can print the assessment off and hand it to the carers,” says Coleman.
The Quikplan programme has been proven to improve care agencies’ CQC ratings as it ensures that service user visits are carried out safely and correctly. Record keeping through a cloud and mobile technology also means an agency has complete control and visibility of their business, meaning they can quickly respond to issues and complaints.
In addition, Quikplan ensures that all care providers meet HMRC standards.
“There’s a minimum wage, as you know, so carers can’t be paid anything less than this. We’ve had companies on our books who have failed to meet those standards and HMRC have sent them a bill and it’s finished the company,” says Patrick.
“So it’s in the home care agency’s best interests to make sure they are compliant with these legislations, and our software helps them to do that by enforcing those rules,” he adds.
“These are things that genuinely save the agencies time and money. They can’t afford to get things wrong. They can’t afford to get a bad CQC rating, they can’t afford to get fined by HMRC and they can’t almost afford to pay what they have to pay at the moment because they are not getting the money from the councils. So it’s really important that they are on the ball and that these systems are in place.”
Passionate about care
Given Nick Patrick’s family background, he understands the daily tasks that give care agencies the biggest headaches, and because of this, along with the lack of funding in the care sector at the moment, he is passionate about making their lives easier so that they can get on with what they entered the care industry for – caring.
“We hit on things that really give agencies the most pain. If we can find a way of automating that and stop them from making mistakes, that’s what we’ve got to do. I think it’s an extremely complex industry, and I don’t think agencies and their carers are justified in terms of reimbursement for the amount of work that they do. It could be anyone’s mum or dad that needs support and these providers are just not funded properly,” says Patrick.
“People don’t go into home care for the money; they do it because they genuinely care and they want to make a difference. Of course you’ve got to make money, it’s a business, but they are more interested in the quality of the care than anything else and I think that’s admirable. There aren’t many businesses where you can say that people are in it for the right reasons. So we need to support them and we are going to continue to do that.”