More and more home care organisations are adopting technology. However, there are several challenges to overcome when deciding what software or hardware to choose for your business, writes Katie Thorn, project lead at Digital Social Care.
We often hear of the need for social care providers to “go digital”, but rarely discuss what we mean by this. In general, when we talk about technology in social care, we mean care management or rostering systems and assistive technologies. There are always new technologies – or new ways of using existing technologies – being adopted in social care.
Digital technologies can enable transformation in social care organisations, both by supporting staff to be more efficient and by supporting quality care. There are numerous benefits to adopting technology in social care settings. Last year United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) surveyed their members who either had implemented or were in the process of implementing technology in their services.
Some of the benefits identified by respondents were that technology kept the schedule accurate (95%), that it made information management easier (77%) and that it reduced the need for paperwork (71%).
Despite the emerging benefits with using technology, there are also challenges associated with going digital. For the majority of social care providers, the biggest challenge is cost. Cost will always be a consideration when making organisational change and so it’s important that we minimise the risk in making large financial decisions.
The best way of minimising this risk is to be clear about what you would like to achieve with the technology you are adopting. You know your organisation, staff and service users best so it’s important to identify what your drivers are for adopting technology.
These drivers might be efficiency, better organisational oversight, better regulatory compliance, improved communication between service users and their loved ones or something else entirely. Being clear about the desired outcome has two clear benefits:
- It makes it easier to make a business case to senior management, boards, staff, and service users and their friends and families
- It helps you begin to narrow down which suppliers would make most sense for your organisation.
UKHCA’s survey identified several things to consider when deciding which software to use. Some people want a system which integrated with other systems, others wanted one system which would cover all elements of their business. People also researched the usability of software, its compliance with data protection and regulatory requirements, and its training support.
Having a clear plan of your organisation wants is the best way of choosing a technology which will work for you.
A key challenge to digital transformation across all sectors is that introducing new technology is often seen as an “IT project”. This means that only a few people are involved in trying to implement technology without support from the rest of the organisation.
In reality, purchasing and installing equipment is one small part of going digital. The best way of ensuring that your rollout is successful is to understand that it requires a culture change throughout your organisation. You will need to have the resources available to affect this change.
To successfully implement technology in your organisation, make sure that the people who will use it are involved in the research and planning stage of your decision making.
If front line staff will be the main people using the technology then they should be involved in the selection process. If the technology is too hard to use, or doesn’t have clear benefits, then they will stop using it and revert to old ways of working.
It is important to invite service users to be part of this process – particularly if the technology will be used by them directly or is being used to record their care.
If people are used to seeing paper records and now care and support workers are using mobile phones, they may have concerns that their records are not being kept up to date or that staff are not paying attention. Involving service users not only empowers staff and service users to work collaboratively together, but also ensures a smoother rollout.
The adult social care sector faces has to overcome the challenges in going digital and this is why we have launched Digital Social Care. Run by social care providers for social care providers, we provide free support and guidance on technology, data protection and appropriate information sharing. We believe that digital innovation gives us the opportunity to:
- Improve the quality of care
- Be transparent and accountable
- Support individuals to remain independent for longer
- Improve the quality and efficiency of information sharing between health and social care.
We will be launching our Digital Readiness Tool this autumn. This free toolkit has been designed in collaboration with Skills for Care. It can be used to support social care employers planning their digital journey.