By Susan Saldibar
Remember those ‘good old’ days before automation and wireless technology, when workforce management consisted of printed schedules, sign-up clipboards, flyers tacked on bulletin boards, paystub alert notifications and, when all else failed, sticky notes?
We’ve come a long way! Or have we?
Amazingly many senior care communities are still stuck back in those good old days. While the federal government has mandated electronic recordkeeping and automation in hospitals and acute care facilities, they do not extend to senior care facilities. So, when a patient leaves the hospital and enters a long-term care environment, they are, in effect, going back in time. At least as far as the management of the staff who cares for them is concerned.
We sat down with Norm Couturier, Chief Product Strategist at iTacit, a Senior Housing Forum partner, to talk about the lack of workforce automation in senior care facilities. Norm predicts that it is only a matter of time before senior care providers automate their workforce management. They know how important it is, not only to stay competitive, but to keep pace with increasing compliancy requirements and regulations.
Check your technology at the door.
We asked Norm to explain why the traditional methods of handling staff training, communication and compliance adherence are becoming more and more unmanageable without the support of technology. Norm identifies five key drivers behind the need for automation:
- Compliance: As every long-term care provider is well aware, if training and procedures are not in compliance with industry requirements, they can get hit with fines. Manually keeping track of and updating files to meet compliance mandates is both tedious and prone to error. By integrating files and automating records and updates, you are saving time and improving accuracy. And you’re freeing up staff time to do more important resident care duties.
- Communication: Flyers, sticky notes, and pay-stub alerts are no longer adequate to effectively communicate with the team. They are even less efficient when spread across communities and/or shifts.
“In effect, you are asking your staff to check their cell phones at the door and go back to the old way of doing things,” says Norm. “It doesn’t take advantage of the way we all communicate in the real world. You need to get to the person working at 8:00 a.m., at 3:00 p.m. and the person working at 2:00 a.m.,” he adds. By providing updates and alerts via technology, whether that’s a computer, tablet or phone, management can be certain that everyone is in the loop, in real time.
- Onboarding and Training: These mission critical areas are becoming more complex as needs and requirements grow. Has each staff member completed their various training goals? Can they train online? Have they accrued the requisite number of hours? Are they ready to start work in your facility? Automating the tracking of these processes gives management the ability to make across-the-board changes or fine tune individual requirements with instant staff notification.
- Staff Quality: The caliber of employee you want on your team expects communications to be up-to-date. Many will want access to online training. Demonstrating that you are willing to invest in them will help you retain higher quality staff. And it shows in the level of care you provide.
- Competitive Edge: The children of many of today’s long term care residents are Baby Boomers and older Generation Xers. They expect to see evidence that automation is being used and they will notice when it is absent. It shows up in the efficiency of the staff and ultimately in the level of care provided.
“Prospective clients are interested in things like CMS quality ratings,” says Norm. “Senior care operators strive for a 5-star rating. They know how important it is to prospective clients. Having updated technology and automating communications and processes helps them compete more effectively,” he added.
All out of excuses.
Norm also set the record straight on a few stubborn misconceptions that have kept senior living communities from automating the management of their workforce.
- Expense: The perception that expensive software will not fit within their tight budgets. No longer true! Today’s cloud-based solutions, such as iTacit, are very economical to use. Because services are offered through the cloud, no expensive servers and third party contracts are required. With iTacit, you can start with a single module and add on as your needs grow.
- Business disruption: Okay, any new installation will cause at least some disruption to routine. It’s something new to learn. But, Norm is quick to point out, “The key is to start with what your organization can handle. Be realistic with your resources. Many of our clients opt to begin with the training/compliance module. Then, once they see the benefits, they are eager to keep going.”
- Tech aversion: Norm noted that, while the senior care industry has a reputation for being tech aversive, a survey conducted by iTacit revealed that the majority of senior care managers described themselves as ‘early adopters’ of technology! “We hear all the time that staff are not comfortable with computers, yet they’re texting their kids and have Pinterest accounts!”
“The senior care industry has been dancing between the ‘technology’ raindrops for quite some time,” says Norm.
“When presented with new, more agile and economical ways of automating, however, the reality sets in,” he notes. “It’s important to pick a technology partner you’re comfortable with, who provides the level of customer service you require. iTacit was developed specifically for a senior care audience, and we know and anticipate our customers’ needs.”
What is that reality? The cost of continuing to maintain outdated, error-prone processes is rapidly becoming more expensive than the cost to automate them. Those who make that realization sooner, rather than later, stand to gain the competitive edge. And, given today’s competitive senior care industry, that’s worth a lot.