Freedom and Information – How technology enables quality improvement in care

September 6, 2019 7:13 am

Given the financial stresses, staffing challenges and market instability that remain front and centre in social care, the subject of Service Quality and Improvement often gets dangerously relegated to a secondary priority.

This is a tremendous concern, not only because of the effects that service quality obviously has on individuals, but also through the ripple effects that differing levels of service quality have on the stability of the social care system, the NHS, and the wider economy.

The situation is not helped by the archaic methods of audit and quality improvement that have become standard practice in social care, where you are far more likely to spot towering stacks of files and folders than detailed, up-to-date digital dashboards and reports.

These admin intensive processes are a really damaging fit with social care. It is a sector that already struggles to have enough staff to deliver adequate services and to free staff from daily admin to spend more time on actual care.

Freedom to deliver outstanding care

This is beginning to change though. As more care providers, all kinds of services are modernising up to levels that have become standard in other person-centred sectors.

This process is two-fold. Firstly, using software to make day-to-day activities more efficient and safer, giving staff more time to spend with, and more focus on, people receiving care.

This is something that inspectors from the Care Quality Commission are identifying with increasing frequency in their reports. Here is one example from the inspection of New Directions Flexible Social Care Solutions, using Access Care Planning and Access Care Compliance software:

“The electronic system used allowed management to spend considerably more time with people and staff to focus on the quality of support instead of spending time completing audits and action plans. People told us that the use of technology has enabled staff to spend more time with them and develop more innovative ideas.

“It also allowed staff to completely personalise every document and process within the system. It enabled new ideas to be explored and developed. We saw that the system was efficiently enabling staff to spend more quality time with people rather than spending hours writing in documents.”

Another example, this time from residential care home operated by The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, using care management software from the Access Group:

“The effective use of this electronic systems within the home allowed staff to spend less time on completing paperwork and more time spent with people. Staff confirmed that the management ensured they were maximizing staff potential.”

Service quality improvement – the power of data

In addition to freeing staff up to deliver more person-focused services, when data is captured digitally, instead of on paper or in simple spreadsheets, all the information gathered every minute of every hour, of every day can be processed digitally, instantly.

This makes it possible to have live monitoring of entire services, areas or even individuals, to spot areas of concern and address them; for example, deteriorating health or wellbeing. The same systems can also be used to highlight initiatives that are working well and build upon them.

Capturing, storing and processing data digitally as opposed to on paper, or a paper-digital hybrid, makes audits faster, accurate and meaningful. In short, they become something that is of great value, rather than something that takes great effort.

Take for example a system like Access Care Compliance, unique in the care software space, it enables care providers to run electronic audits and mock CQC inspections. This produces a specific, structured action plan, on the areas to improve and the steps that need to be taken to improve.

This weights the audit process towards identifying and making improvements to quality, instead of so much time being taken by the process of gathering and auditing the information itself.

The shift from admin to action enables the incremental, continuous improvements in quality that many other sectors have benefited from, in line with management models like PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) or Kaizen.

These models and others can be adapted for use in social care, in the care of individuals, in single locations and even across whole services. Technology is key to giving managers the time and information necessary to make them work properly.

Access Health & Social Care will be at #ITEC20019 stand 10, to discover more