Within social adult care more and more digital solutions are generating an opportunity to understand health and care even better, using data as part of delivering person-centred care.
As the requirements for documenting the level of care in care homes keep increasing, the amount of data available from the care homes also increases. In general, this is positive since it enables management and employees alike, to make decisions based on facts rather than feelings and thoughts. Hence a more objective basis for decision-making is a fundamental motivation for many when digitising the documentation process.
However, data gathering is at its nascent stage; more qualitative than quantitative and hasn’t found a platform to be used effectively. When going ahead with digitisation of the core care processes, a number of metrics can be installed to access how things are going in the care homes.
4 potential pitfalls of becoming data-driven
To be data-driven might sound like a buzzword. For instance, does more data equal better care? There are no guarantees. However, four essential points are worth considering in order to support and empower the use of data in the care sector.
1. Are we just doing this for the metrics?
When introducing documentation-based metrics to the employees’ work, you have to be careful. First of all, it makes sense to choose metrics that enhance the residents’ care, which in turn make it a priority for the employees. You have to be aware, that working with metrics might potentially cause the employees to neglect core tasks in order to reach the metrics.
Consequently, it is important not to lose focus of who it is all about: The residents. Some things cannot and should not be measured and put into metrics. How do you quantify the value of a personal conversation or the time spent holding hands and spending time with a resident? The metrics have to support such activities and not hinder them.
2. How can we balance realistic metrics with meaningful care?
It is important that the metrics support the organisation’s overall goals, for instance the quality of care. When doing that, the process of collecting data can support the professional work rather than hold it back. For the same reason, it is important to have realistic and achievable metrics so the employees won’t get demotivated or afraid if they fail to reach a goal. In short, data has to support the employees in their core tasks with the residents and not thwart any efforts of providing quality care.
3. What is more important – achieving the goals for the metrics or the residents’ well-being and care?
Most people would unequivocally answer that the well-being of the residents is most important if asked directly. However, there is a risk of falling into the quantitative trap of working to achieve metrics rather than provide the best care possible. As a manager it is important to be connected to the day-to-day operations in the care homes so you are able to find the correct metrics to measure quality and efficiency. You cannot allow yourself to be controlled by keeping all the metrics green if they are not essential to the well-being of the resident.
If the employees are too focused on metrics, it might result in a decrease in the level of care, because it is easy to feel that management is monitoring their every move due to the larger pool of data and stricter requirements for documentation. Conversely, metrics that empower a high quality of care for each resident and support the core tasks have an increased chance of succeeding and creating a sense of ownership among the employees.
4. Which metrics are the most important?
When you have created a number of metrics, it can be helpful to prioritise which metrics are most important. KPI’s are different from regular metrics by being essential in delivering the core tasks. An example could be the professional care effort.
By having more data available it is easy to start measuring things that, in principle, are not relevant to how the care home is being run. It is a good idea to define what is KPIs and what is metrics before or during the implementation process. If not, the risk of charting a wrong course increases or the indication from the data of how the care home is being run can be wrong. At best, data and management information can be used to make better decisions and support the daily activities in the care home. At worst, the data can misinform the recipient.
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How data supports a better and more personal care for the residents
As a whole, daily activities enriched with data is an advantage in all sectors – including the care sector. However, it is only as long as the original “why” is kept focus in strategy plans and so on. Care homes and employees are in place for the sake of the resident and not to achieve a metric established by an external party. The employees are passionate about making a difference which is not always evident in the media or the data. It is paramount to bear the original purpose of all documentation in mind – to create the most optimal workflow for employees and residents.
Documentation serves two purposes. The first is regarding the more fragile residents. We have to show that we have performed the correct professional procedures and assessments. This has to be reflected in the documentation so it is easy for regulators like the CQC to see everything is as it should be. Secondly, it is important to be “smarter tomorrow than we were today”: Documentation is an important step in creating the next practice. New technologies are making the documentation process more agile and easier. By turning the documentation into communication with your colleagues you can unlock and utilise the potential the documentation requirements hold.