Features: August 16th, 2013

There is a great deal of technical support available for the care sector, but much of it comes in stand alone systems such as rostering and scheduling. In this feature Ollie Watson describes how systems can be integrated with a single core database.

Choice and flexibility for service users – a key feature of the personalisation agenda – coupled with increasing financial pressures have prompted the development of significant technological innovation in the care sector. Care providers offering a portfolio of services require effective resource deployment and operational management across their business to maximise efficiency. This could mean, for example, asking a care worker doing a morning shift in a residential setting to undertake a number of reablement visits at tea-time. Managing this effectively is hard; as is finding the right balance between delivering the best quality care for the user first and foremost and ensuring effective return from a service. We also foresee a complex picture of demand for multi-service, multi-agency provision as integration extends to encompass NHS services in the future.

Of course technology can help, and has been a significant aid for a number of years. There are many dedicated systems on the market now that can assist providers in effectively rostering and scheduling staff. Innovations over the years such as graphical, wallchart- based domiciliary planning, help co-ordinators and schedulers get the ‘best fit’ for a service based on looking at service user need first and then selecting the most efficient staff schedule to deliver this. Residential systems have helped by allowing the co-ordination and allocation of staff to shift-based patterns based on the demands of the property, and considering service user needs within the setting. The advent of mobile working has also been a huge technological breakthrough for the sector, with advanced smartphones issued to field-based care workers really acting as a dynamic tool to help point of care delivery, as well as massively reducing administration and providing safety and discreet monitoring for the service user and care worker alike.

Integrating systems

Often though, frustratingly for the provider who is seeing services converge, these technological innovations are supplied by separate vendors, with separate service specialisms, which makes integrating the systems to match the services hard and often expensive. The knowledge and architecture required for a provider’s IT department to successfully navigate through different vendors’ product versions, operating systems, hardware requirements, integration protocols, not to mention upgrade strategies, SLAs and disaster planning, can be time consuming and diverse and difficult to align to the direction of the business.
At CACI one of our most recent innovations has been to recognise and bring to the forefront something we have actually always had – a single system. With a single core database, supporting at its heart a single customer record, we are able to implement multi-service delivery around the service user as they follow their own particular service pathway. Staff records are similarly a single, shared record across the database. The software shows a domiciliary care service co-ordinator that one of their support workers is also booked out on a Thursday afternoon helping out at a day centre; a supported living scheme operator can pull in an intermediate care worker from a neighbouring patch if they are free, etc. Throw in integrated back-office Payroll, HR, Contract Management and Finance, with a Reporting and Management Information tool that is able to graphically look at aggregated data across the business, then the concept and benefits of a single management or Care Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system become clear in the current climate.
Going forward, integrated care and support service models will continue to develop and embrace health services as well. We feel well placed to continue innovating for our customers’ integrated services on a truly integrated platform.

Ollie Watson is Business Development Director at CACI, leading providers of software for the care and support market www.caci.co.uk