By David Lynes, CEO & Founder of Unique IQ
It has been well-documented that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a major societal shift in how technology is used, with the care sector being no exception.
From the widespread adoption of Zoom for business meetings and social hangouts alike, to the rapid deployment of digitisation projects that had languished at the bottom of agendas for years, technology has helped us to adapt both how we work and live in this strange, new era.
As care providers start to resurface, their leaders agree that if there could be some good to come out of the coronavirus pandemic, it is the change brought about by greater use of technology within the sector. So, what might that homecare technology look like?
A world of data
There has been a strong push by the likes of the Homecare Association, LaingBuisson and Care England for a nationalised data set that gives a complete picture of homecare within the UK. As a sector, homecare suffers from a lack of an evidence base, leading to under-investment and under-representation in wider health and social care discussions. And yet its software providers are uniquely placed to offer data, including real-time data, that can drive decision-making and even system-wide change.
Whilst the big picture dream is yet to be realised, care businesses are beginning to take advantage of the vast riches of data they receive day in, day out. Data-rich dashboards that are becoming the norm within most software platforms are demystifying data - putting knowledge and power into the hands of care managers and leaders by showcasing important metrics that can drive efficiencies, uncover risks and illuminate trends.
For example, care management software can provide an indication of when client falls have been creeping up, perhaps sending an alert when a predetermined threshold is reached. Another example is care managers using software to analyse the different types of medications that are being administered on a regular basis to their client base. Growing trends in a particular type of medication could indicate a shift in the types of care their team is being called on to provide, such as rising cases of dementia.
With this kind of data at their fingertips, care managers are empowered to elevate the care they are delivering and make better informed decisions about what their businesses do next.
Connected and collaborative
Taking this a step further, our vision is for a world where care data is joined-up, with software providers working in collaboration, not confrontation, aligning their systems with the shared purpose of supporting the delivery of outstanding homecare.
With the advent of modern, open API approaches, data can flow freely between different systems, both within and between organisations. It is possible for a carers’ staff record to flag when an essential qualification is due to expire and trigger an enrolment on the relevant course in an associated e-learning system. Similarly, live clock-in and clock-out information submitted via a carers’ mobile app can be used to generate payroll calculations which then flow straight into finance and wages software ready for pay day.
This level of connectivity brings about huge efficiencies for care organisations, freeing them up to focus on the most important thing - care. It also enables care providers to see a much bigger picture of an individual’s care, helping them to be more responsive and truly person-centred.
As care organisations start to rely increasingly on software for their day-to-day operations, it’s crucial that technology has the users’ best interests at heart. Whilst having access to bottomless reserves of data and countless features offers enormous potential, it can quickly become overwhelming. So, software personalisation is an important emerging trend.
Care organisations are no different to other types of business in that they are complex, with different roles and responsibilities and varying demands on their software. A finance manager needs to see contract details and funders, invoices, and payments. A HR manager on the other hand is interested in recruitment, staff turnover, performance management and qualifications. Meanwhile, the Registered Manager is concerned about care quality - visit fulfilment, safe medication management, accidents, safeguarding and other risks, to name but a few aspects of the role.
As a result, personalised software, with role specific dashboards are becoming an increasingly common feature of care management software. Technology must enable and support staff, not detract from the job in hand.
Finally, AI, or Artificial Intelligence, has been a talking point in homecare for some time. In short, AI uses technology to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind, doing so much faster and on a much bigger scale than humans are capable of. It helps us make sense of the massive amounts of data we have now – and do something useful with it.
That makes AI the next logical step for homecare software. Let’s make all that data work for us and help us provide even better standards of personalised care.
Some of the ways we can see AI fitting into homecare software include:
Data discovery – using AI to comb through mountains of incoming and historical data to surface important information and life-saving insights that we might otherwise never have known (or that it would take us a lifetime to find out).
Sentiment analysis – analysing notes and records and assigning specific words or phrases a positive, negative, or neutral sentiment. By mapping that over time, the AI can indicate whether a client is moving towards a more positive or negative state of mind, which can help the care giver adapt their approach. This kind of technology has an application for the workforce too, to help improve retention rates, which is a huge challenge for the care sector.
Decision-making – scheduling and rostering is a complex process where AI could be hugely beneficial. There are numerous factors a care manager needs to consider when scheduling a visit, from travel times to a carer’s experience, to a client’s preferences. AI can go further by considering many more factors, such as client sentiment and profit margins, to make the best decision with the resources available.
Care is going through a huge period of change now, with technology at the forefront in supporting the remodelling of how care is delivered. By automating the mundane and enabling the meaningful, technology can ease the burden on time poor care staff, creating efficiencies that free people up to dedicate their energies to caring. Done right, technology can have a real impact on supporting both those receiving care and those providing it.
Unique IQ – Unique IQ creates innovative software solutions to help homecare agencies deliver better care. Founded in 2003 by CEO David Lynes, the Redditch-based technology company was established to address the pain points inherent in managing a mobile or remote workforce. Fast forward to 2021, Unique IQ has launched IQ:caremanager, a truly end-to-end, next-generation homecare system - offering digital care planning, scheduling & rostering, electronic call monitoring, role-aligned dashboards, three levels of data discovery, and eMAR in one seamless and totally connected, browser-based system, with a mobile app option for the remote, real time supervision of care. The digitisation and streamlined processes the technology brings to domiciliary care providers are recognised by the Care Quality Commission as key markers of quality during its inspections.
It’s not about software, it’s about care.