Digitisation - the value of what clients don't see

Daniel Casson considers how you can gain maximum value from digital transformation of administration functions.

Much of the focus on digital transformation in our sector has been on the provision of personal care - care planning, patient records and the like. However, there is much more to caring than providing care because we are subject to a huge amount of paperwork and regulatory oversight. During COVID, things were made harder with rapidly changing rules. As a result, a considerable amount of staff time can be taken up with routine, often manual, admin.

I recently met up with James Paterson, founder of Plainly.com. This Care England supporter member is helping care providers digitise their "back-office" operations, and we reflected on the value that administrative automation could give. The platforms for back-office automation have seen great developments using tech that has been developed in other sectors such as finance and hospitality. For example, Plainly uses an easy-to-understand, no-code platform to enable digitisation and automation of any admin process, from employee onboarding and HR to visitor and staff logging, enquiries, admissions and more.

Costs and efficiency
Everything a member of your staff does has an attributable financial cost in the form of that staff member's rate of pay versus the time it takes to do that thing. Every time someone has to manually create documentation, issue a routine communication, move information (whether digital or analogue) from one system to another or re-enter data that are already known about, this costs money and means that the person that you have paid for is unable to do other, potentially more important, things. Thus, by automating as many admin tasks as possible, you could be in a position to make more efficient use of existing resources, freeing people up to give more time to caring.

Management and governance
Digitising your admin (particularly via a cloud-based solution) could allow you to conduct monitoring and oversight remotely and in real-time, making it cheaper, easier and more effective. Furthermore, increased transparency can lead to better governance, which feeds directly into the 'well-led' component of the CQC's inspection criteria.

Reduced legal and compliance risk
Better governance via digitisation can also minimise legal and compliance risks. In a manual world, mistakes are easily made, procedures are not correctly followed, tasks are not done, and outdated templates and processes are used. For example, wrong fees may be entered on an admission agreement or the wrong salary in an employment contract. DBS and/or reference checks may not be done before a new employee starts work, or risk assessments may not be completed before a new activity. All of these have potentially serious consequences for care organisations (not least in regulatory sanctions and reputational harm) and those receiving care from them.

Automation largely eliminates scope for human error at an operational level. Having a consistent, digital paper trail ensures that processes are always being followed and risks mitigated.

Staff morale and retention
Another hidden but real benefit of digitising your admin is staff morale. I think it's fair to say that most people don't like admin. Carers want to care, not to fill in forms. By taking away boring, repetitive, low-value tasks, staff can spend more time doing the things they enjoy, making them more fulfilled, thereby improving staff morale and, therefore, I would argue, retention.

Business metrics
Finally, James pointed out that a key benefit is the ability to draw out powerful business insights from data. For example:

  • How many 'show-rounds' on average lead to admissions?
  • Which advertising channels generate the best candidates?
  • How many different maintenance contractors visit your sites each month, and why?

Insights such as these can be generated in a few clicks. You can build dashboards to monitor data in real-time for the most important metrics. This can be truly transformational and impossible in the manual, non-digital world.

The Value Base
In these articles, I have often referred to the role of digitisation in providing value for:

  • the person being supported and cared for;
  • the organisation; and
  • the health and care system as a whole.

While this office/admin automation explicitly provides value for the organisation, there are clear benefits for the people we are caring for and potentially for the role, you can play in the integrated care system we all want to develop.

The investment in time and upfront funding will soon realise benefits. I am happy to talk to any interested members, and you can always go Plainly, and request a demo.

Daniel Casson is Care England's Digital Transformation Adviser.
He was speaking to James Paterson, founder of Care England Supporter Member, Plainly.com