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It’s a monumental step to go from paper-based documentation to digital care planning. It’s a no brainer in disguise, as the advantages are plenty, but the process likely filled with relevant yet tough decisions. All the how-to stuff. There’s plenty of suppliers touting different care planning solutions. Some are similar; some are quite different from each other.
Some are free; some are expensive. So, what’s the deal?
Where do you start and how can you choose between them?
Before you read any further, it’s important to stress that there is no objectively perfect supplier or software. It all depends on your context, vision, and preferences.
Don’t want to read through the entire post? Just click whichever topic interest you to jump straight to it.
Simply put digital care planning is a digitalised version of the care plan you know. Sometimes it’s also called an electronic care plan. At an absolute minimum, it’s a 1:1 translation of what you used to have in a paper form.
It shouldn’t solely be that though. That’s an opportunity wasted. You won’t be much better just by having your forms on a tablet or phone. You need to leverage it into something more.
Luckily that’s possible. And that’s why the hype is real when it comes to digital care planning. You won’t just be able to provide documentation at the point of care. You also have a place to gather all relevant information about the resident. Making it much easier for new-hires and temp staff to get introduced to your way of working.
Digital care planning also acts as a reminder for everything you need to do during the day. No more forgotten care activities.
It also allows you to link individual care activities to the resident’s care plan. It creates a deeper purpose. You don’t just do the physio exercises because you have to. You do it to improve the resident’s mobility. And it’s easy to document your efforts to Local Authorities.
The above-mentioned benefits can also be achieved using paper. It’s just much more time-consuming.
The reduced amount of paper being used is not only good for the environment. Staff also waste a lot of time waiting for the printer. And we all know it usually likes to act up. Further, paper is not cheap so there’s also a direct cost-saving in making the switch.
To put it into perspective with a real-life example from a customer of ours. Through 3 months a single care home with 56 residents made 181,000 care notes and assessments. Imagine the time they would have spent going back to the office to write these down. Or the amount of end of shift time saved? It all adds up.
The way you invest in digital care planning is pretty similar across most UK suppliers.
Often, you pay a one-time implementation fee. That covers setting up the product and making sure everything works as it should. Some companies offer training for free while others provide pay-as-you-go training. The same goes for support. Some offer tiered access to support with limits per call or minute while others provide unlimited support.
After the setup, you pay a running monthly subscription fee. Extra costs could include system updates.
Some providers have also divided their software into modules. In those cases, suppliers charge you based on which modules you want active.
Most digital care planning solutions are hardware agnostic. That means they can run on all types of devices. Laptops, tablets, and phones. Download an app, login, and you’re good to go. It also means that it should be up to you to decide what devices you want to use.
Most suppliers recommend devices they know work with their software, and that they can easily support. Others force you to choose a specific type of (costly) device from them. Be aware!
Because it’s part of their business. And when selling devices is part of your business there is a natural incentive to sell even more devices. In other words, don’t be shocked when you’re told they are not supporting your device anymore and wants you to move to a newer model.
The benefits of switching to digital care planning are well-documented. Most digital care planning companies can show incredible business cases. But, much of that also speaks to the very limiting way of working with paper-based systems. So, the conclusion is clear. Most providers will have one form of digital care planning implemented before 2022.
The real question is what solution!
Before we cast a light on that, you need to consider your main reason for going paperless. Is it to save money? To increase your CQC rating? To become more efficient?
It’s likely a mix of all. The answer should be aligned with your vision statement and desired care delivery outcomes. It should highlight what kind of service you are. And what kind you aspire to be.
Digital care planning is not a simple to-do list. It’s not only a place to store your residents’ care plans. Or just documentation of your efforts.
At least it doesn’t have to be.
In our opinion, digital care planning needs to support staff and benefit the residents. As an essential tool for providing a better quality of life for all. This is what the care sector is about. That’s what innovations should bring in some way, shape, or form.
Cost- and Time savings can turn into a meaningful conversation or an outing to the local theatre. That’s where digital care planning shines. When it allows staff to provide the care so many of them are passionate about giving. Your care planning system should act as a facilitator. Not limit you.
Here are some questions to help kickstart your search for a supplier.
All digital care planning systems claim to be user-friendly. Most are. At least compared to their paper counterparts.
But what is user-friendliness to you? Is it that information is visual and quick to digest? A good link between the system and your work processes? High bell alerts? Or something else?
User-friendliness as a design concept is about navigation and ease of use. Is it easy to do what I need and want to do? Usually not as easy as the suppliers claim. You need to know what user-friendliness means to you. Especially with a new digital system.
Imagine you operate an LD home, a residential home, a Supported Living service, and a nursing home. They would probably have different needs in terms of digital care planning. Is the system capable of handling these differences? Or is it too rigid to be useful in all three settings?
Are the users exposed to unnecessary information because the system has to support multiple areas of business?
Complexity should be at a minimum, so staff at your LD home won’t see the information that’s only relevant for a residential Home.
A digital care planning solution is not an IT system you will only use once a week. It’s a primary work tool that you will use daily.
That also means that the system’s limitations will define how you work. For better or worse. Be mindful of the culture it creates. Does it inspire collaboration between members of staff? Or divide them into individual time and task lists?
If you’re a smaller organisation you might not have the ambition of aggregating data in tools like Power BI.
Collecting data from IT systems like rostering, billing, or HR systems is essential. If you combine that with data from digital care planning a whole new range of possibilities open up. Microsoft’s Power BI can spot causalities that are invisible to the human eye. This is especially useful for groups or organisations with more services.
Are you looking for a plug-and-play care planning solution? In that case, flexibility might not be what you’re after. Yet, it’s important to have a small degree of flexibility. In the care sector, there’s a constant demand for new processes, collection of data, and evaluation.
For instance, the changes COVID-19 has brought. Practically overnight the processes and demands for documentation changed. You need a care planning system that can handle these sudden and profound changes. And instantly implement new ways of working.
In these cases, it’s not enough to wait for the supplier to create adequate systems for you. You need to be able to make the appropriate adjustments quickly yourself.
Where do you plan to take your documentation and care planning in the future? All signs point towards a WHO-inspired standard coming in a not-too-far away future. Organisations like the PRSB signify such change.
Standardised frameworks are great when different areas of the health care sector have to work together. So, the gap between the NHS and the care sector can be as insignificant as possible. Another benefit of standardising is that you can compare and measure across the whole sector. To create best practices.
Start by looking at your goal for the transformation process from paper to digital. What’s the most important aspect of it?
Is it to get up and running quickly? Or to get the most out of the system?
There’s no right or wrong answer. It leads back to the overall reason why you want to invest in digital care planning in the first place.
If you are looking for a specific outcome, you should aim for a more thorough implementation. Alternatively, you can focus on implementing quickly and then assess the benefits later.
Suppliers offer varying degrees of implementation with very different prices. The same is the case with their ongoing support. Some provide it for free while others charge fees.
It’s difficult to buy something as complex as digital care planning for the first time. So, we’ve gathered the questions you should ask suppliers.
You’ve taken the time to map out what you want in a digital care planning solution. When you’re talking to the supplier do you feel like they get what you’re trying to achieve? Or are they only looking to make a quick sale?
If they seem uninterested when you’re not a customer, you know they will care even less when you’re a paying customer.
What you want with your digital care planning journey dictates the supplier relationship you are looking for.
If you are looking for a cheap and plug-and-play solution you can find that. It will create more of a traditional buyer-supplier relationship. Where new features and functionality are not expected.
If you opt for more of a partnership, it would most likely be more expensive and time-consuming. It’ll be more expensive and take longer to implement. Also, a partnership would increase the likelihood of the supplier creating features that can directly benefit you.
Does it matter what the supplier’s vision for the future is? Not for everyone. But it’s nice to know if the supplier is just in the care sector to make some quick money. Or they genuinely care about the people. If you have simply chosen the supplier based on low prices, you shouldn’t expect much in terms of product and sector ambitions.
For example, if you know a supplier is committed to supporting the frontline staff, you might expect the majority of the features will benefit them. And by supporting the frontline staff, we don’t mean a couple of donations to foundations like the Care Worker’s Charity. That matters, but true commitment requires more than that.
But how do you judge their vision for the future? One way is to ask to look into their product roadmap for the medium/long term. A product roadmap is a visual summary of what providers are trying to build. Knowing what a supplier is building towards, lets you gauge what their vision is for their product.
Whether the supplier is willing to let you look at the roadmap is often dependent on how big of a customer you potentially are. Are you a smaller home with few residents? Then not everyone will agree to let you see or influence their roadmap. After all, the roadmap is both tentative and subject to change.
Often, the reality is that larger customers influence the roadmap, and push other projects back. This is a major reason why companies rarely share their roadmaps. They want to remain as agile as possible in their development. Another reason they want to keep it a secret is to hide it from their competitors. There’s a first-mover advantage with new features. Meaning there’s an incentive to hold your cards close to the chest.
There’s an uncomfortable truth brewing within digital care planning. Actually, within digitalisation of the care sector in general. It’s about what happens to all the historical data if you want to switch suppliers.
Nobody gets into a relationship thinking it’s going to end. Nonetheless, that’s something you need to consider before you get involved with any supplier of digital care planning. Well, IT providers in general.
Do your own your data? It might seem mad to suggest but it’s not a given that you do. Technically you do own it. But some suppliers don’t provide any data export functions. Effectively, forcing you to stay a customer. Some providers offer you a peek into historical data for a fee. Forcing you to pay to see your own data. Imagine that. Madness.
You need to be able to access resident journals for the past 5 years. But what happens if you switch suppliers and the CQC comes knocking? You won’t be able to show data from before the supplier switch.
As more things get digitalised, so the need for integrations between systems will increase. Nobody wants to work in 10 different IT systems. It takes too long to learn the ins and outs and coordination between areas of business becomes obstructed.
Integrations are not straightforward to make. They are intricate and tricky and most of the time quite pricey. So, it might also be expensive for you to access the integrations. A cheap digital care planning solution might end up becoming the most expensive on the market.
Do all suppliers say they can do integrations but are they able to back that up? Do they have a tangible track record of creating integrations to other systems?
We know. This question seems technical, time-consuming, and downright exhausting to answer but it’s not.
Take a look at the product releases the supplier has made the past 12 months. Is it mostly bug fixes? Or new features?
It should tell you a lot about the system quality of the solution you’re about to buy. If it’s a solid product, less time will be spent on bug fixes (Yet, no one goes completely without bugs). Do they spend the majority of their time putting out fires or creating new and awesome features?
Also, take a look at what was released in the last few months. Sometimes a longer break between releases suggests they are building something completely new. But anything longer than a few months or sometimes even years indicates a bad software. A software that’s difficult to create new features for.
Everyone offers support. But the way companies approach it differs. First of all, you should opt for a supplier whose support matches the way you work. And the way you prefer to receive support. Is that through live chat? E-mail? Phone? A self-help service? There are so many options available.
Are there many ways to reach customer support? Or only a landline at the bottom of the website?
Are there service windows where you are unable to use the software? And are upgrades to the software made automatically and free-of-charge?
Do you have to pay every time customer support fixes an issue you are having?
There are many ways suppliers go about handling this. Pick the one that suits your organisation best but be mindful of the different available options.
The future of care includes digital care planning. Like most things nowadays digitalisation brings new possibilities and increased efficiency. Since the system is going to be a pivotal part of your business it’s not a straightforward choice. You are going to use the system every single day. Remember the 181,000 care notes over 3 months?
We believe you’re better equipped to make the right decision for you and your organisation with this guide. It’s the Wild West right now. As the technological landscape within social care is still being defined.
Our advice is to identify your internal drivers for making the switch from paper and go from there. You will more than likely find a supplier that matches your ambitions.