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In the care sector, there is an increasing focus on providers documenting the level of care they provide. As the number of recordings increases so does the potential amount of data. At face value, that’s a good thing because it enables both management and staff to make decisions based on facts and not guesses and maybes. The premise of creating an objective basis for decision-making is often one of the fundamental motivations when going digital.
However, the present way of gathering data and facts is often more qualitative than quantitative. As of right now, there isn’t a platform that effectively manages all this information. But it’s not all bad news. There are some metrics that can be used to determine how things are going in the care homes. The risk is then that of tunnel vision.
To be “data-driven” sounds like a meaningless buzzword to many. For instance, do more data equal better care in the services? There are no guarantees of that. Also, care homes have been data-driven in a long time, the access to information has just been extremely limited and often gone via paper. We have identified 3 points that are worth considering when really opening up for the use of data in the care sector.
When care providers start documenting more things, they often also create a performance indicator as a baseline for what they want to measure, e.g. in relation to staff’s work. When you do that, you have to be careful. It makes sense to choose a value or metric that aims at making the residents’ care better. But, this will, in turn, become a priority for staff because they are now being directly assessed on their ability to meet this exact work task. An example of this is fluids. We often experience that every resident is being monitored for their fluids. This is highly relevant for some, but not for those drinking and eating well. Most likely, a previous inspection or experience has caused this excessive registration.
However, it’s also important to bear in mind that introducing a metric for some aspects of work potentially makes staff neglect other core tasks that don’t have a direct impact on what they are being measured on.
Our recommendation: Don’t lose focus on the residents. Some things shouldn’t be measured or put into charts and metrics. The value of a personal conversation and the time spent holding hands cannot be boiled down to a simple number. Your metrics need to support such activities and not hinder them.
So, the trick with metrics in care delivery is to facilitate meaningful care while still having realistic and achievable recordings and use of these data. If the metrics are way too ambitious or outright impossible to achieve, then people will get demotivated or be afraid of falling short of the goals that are set out for them. In short, data has to support the employees in their core tasks with the residents and not discourage any efforts of providing quality care.
Our recommendation: Be sure that the metrics are realistic, achievable, and resident-centric.
If asked directly, everyone would emphatically answer that the well-being of the residents is most important. However, there is a risk of falling into a quantitative trap, where your main focus is on meeting those system indicators. Because the metrics are created to ensure the residents’ well-being and care, right? Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the case. As a manager, it is important to stay connected to the day-to-day operations in the service, at the same time enabling you to find the correct things to measure.
If the staff are too focused on some metric, it may result in a decrease in the level of care, because it is easy to feel that management is monitoring their every move due to the larger pool of data and stricter requirements for documentation. Conversely, metrics that empower a high quality of care for each resident and support the core tasks have an increased chance of succeeding and creating a sense of ownership among people working in the service.
Our recommendation: We measure what we value. So, make sure to align the metrics with the reality you face every day in the care home. That creates the highest chance of having meaningful data.
The report ”Better Care in the Age of Automation” by Lydia Nicholas and the team at Doteveryone, investigate the role technology plays in supporting a sustainable, effective, and fair social care system. In it, they specifically focus on data, skills, and culture needed to effectively embrace technology to ultimately provide better care.
When implemented correctly, data can be the best and easiest way of sharing best practice. When you have the correct metrics and ways of gathering data in place, you will be able to transfer and replicate practice from care home to care home. A common saying is that all innovation starts from data, so when you have the most appropriate metrics and data gathering practices in place, you will not only be able to share best practice easier, but also improve upon it and create a better next practice.