Technology, if successfully implemented, can free up time to care, improve quality and reduce costs in healthcare. However, there are many pitfalls along the way. Jonathan Knight, founder of Perfect Ward, gives five top tips on what healthcare providers should look for when adopting new technologies…
- Simple is better: Technology is likely to be used by many front-line staff with a range of IT skills. Some will be ‘digital natives’, extremely comfortable using apps and mobile technology; others will be ‘technophobic’ and more comfortable with a pen and paper. Any new technology needs to be accessible to both groups and sympathetic to existing processes within the care environment. Too often, new technologies ignore the wide range of user skills and existing processes. Therefore, they require significant training simply to get everyone to understand the product, let alone use it on a regular basis.
- You are only as good as your weakest link: Too often, the basic physical infrastructure of care homes and hospitals does not support the technology being introduced. A lack of fast WiFi, too few laptops, or a lack of mobile devices mean that the technology does not get used, no matter how ‘good’ it is. So, make sure you have the basic infrastructure in place before investing in new technologies that can’t be used! Technology either works for staff and residents or it doesn’t: the weakest link will determine this
- Use discipline: Technology solutions can simply replicate unstructured and ill-disciplined manual processes. As a result, a significant opportunity to drive efficiency and quality of care and data is missed. Good technology solutions, in our experience, take into account existing processes, but make sure that the new technology helps improve process discipline and the data structure. As a result, new technologies can help drive improved reporting, remove variation in the quality of care provided and help to eliminate wasted time and effort.
- Excite your staff: The introduction of new technology is a fantastic opportunity for leaders to engage with front-line staff, understand the issues being faced and help staff in fulfilling their roles. Too often, technology implementations are ‘done to’ staff and consequently, they feel like an additional burden is being added to their role. The best technologies excite staff, open up new possibilities in how they do their jobs and make them feel supported in their role. Engaging staff early in the process generally leads to much better results.
- Don’t sit still: Technologies are evolving and adapting the whole time. What may not have been cost effective or secure enough two years ago, may be cheaper and more robust now. Healthcare providers need to constantly evaluate the market to see how new technologies can be applied in their environment.
At Perfect Ward, we work with a range of healthcare providers spanning acutes, mental health, community and care home providers to introduce new technologies that reduce time spent on administration and give front line staff time to care. Given the challenges of coping with an ageing population; increased demand for healthcare services; limited supply of nurses and constrained budgets, we believe that successful providers will need to embrace technology to survive. We can help them navigate this area.