Collaborative care: how technology can join the gaps in care
Collaboration in care is easier said than done, but patients should not be negatively affected by geographical barriers or gaps in communication between providers. Technology is helping us to remove the barriers and plug those gaps.
Collaboration can be an overused term in the press, by industry leaders or in blogs like this one. It’s probably because you can’t have too much collaboration, but it’s also an easy default call to action when an industry or sector is facing challenges ranging from personnel to logistical.
However, collaboration in health and social care really doesn’t fall into this category. It’s crucial and care provision would not work without it.
We divide our country, organisations, institutions, politics, and therefore resource, into areas (such as counties). This makes organisational sense, but those borders are entirely artificial, and people or patients do not adhere to them. Understandably, patients do not care whether their carer or assistant is hailing from Lincolnshire or Rutland. They just want good, reliable and compassionate care.
So it’s important care providers, both council-run and privately, work together to ensure that care provision is a seamless process and not inhibited by geography or other logistical challenges.
What’s the problem?
In short, there is not one singular provider and therefore no singular, unified way of working or managing the care “system”.
This leads to several different challenges, including:
- Accurate time tracking and invoicing
- Tracking of care that is delivered versus what was predicted
- Communication between providers
- Data input – do all organisations use the same methodology?
- System integration
This is important for both private care providers and Local Government Authorities (LGAs). How can accurate invoices be raised if providers use different timesheet software or the process is different? LGAs cannot afford to simply round up figures and pay them – they are on tight budgets and should pay for the care that was delivered.
Equally, LGAs and private care providers must be able to easily discuss and share information, but different software and systems can make this difficult.
Geography also poses a challenge. Local authorities are split according to the politics of the day as well as for historical reasons and we must work within these boundaries.
This helps with structure, but it’s not always the most efficient method especially for patients and care providers who are based on the border of two local authorities.
Plugging the gaps
Technology is increasingly helping us to address the logistical and geographical challenges that carers and care providers face. These are too numerous to list them all, but here are a few:
Keeping it in the cloud
Cloud technology really has revolutionised the care industry. Previously, administrative or time-tracking software had to be based in an office or a laptop with the care professional. This effectively meant the care professional was tied to his or her computer and could only upload any data entries once they were connected to the internet, which was not always as ubiquitous as it is now.
Equally, care providers would not receive live data from care professionals, making management of their teams slow and laborious.
However, the cloud means that the processing burden is located off-site, while the availability of WiFi or 4G phone communications has removed the shackles from care professionals.
Real-time data and updates can now flow seamlessly and constantly between care professional and provider. This means changes to a rota on the fly are much easier to implement, as the providers are aware of the changing situation of their carers.
GPS allows us to easily navigate to other locations, usually via satellite navigation on our phones or in our vehicles. But the technology allows providers to keep track of their carers – where they are, if they’re travelling and how long they have spent in a specific location.
This not only provides accurate information on travel times, using real-time traffic data, so the rota can be updated accordingly, but is a useful safety net for the care professionals too.
GPS could potentially show unusual activity. For example, if a carer has spent much longer at a location than required, the care provider could be alerted to check in on the team member to double check everything is okay.
Tying it together
Even with all this useful technology, one of the biggest barriers to overcome was still the use of different systems. The way data is input, stored and used may be different between providers or their systems may not be compatible.
This poses a real challenge if care providers and local authorities need to share information.
To overcome this, Webroster has developed The Hub to make working with external providers or local authorities stress-free and smooth. It allows both private care providers and LGAs to manage carers, patient data and rotas from one, central Webroster.net system – regardless of the provider’s choice of rostering system and electronic call monitoring.
This is the key aspect to making these systems work. There is no obligation to use our software.
Technology is helping us to break down barriers in care, reduce the administrative burden on providers and professionals and, ultimately, provide a better service for patients.