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Care Managers Show


20 Feb 2024

Guest blog: Why homecare agencies can’t afford to put innovation on the backburner

Guest blog: Why homecare agencies can’t afford to put innovation on the backburner
Abeed Mohamed, Co-founder & Chief Strategy Officer at Birdie, explores what 'innovation' looks like for care agencies and offers a vision for the future.

Anyone working in the social care sector knows that whilst the work moves fast, change moves slowly.

With margins tight and resources scarce, homecare agencies have their hands full with critical activity – uploading paperwork, updating families, phoning carers to see if someone can cover a shift... This leaves them with little time, let alone headspace, to think about how the business can evolve. 

This is a trap that thousands of agencies have been stuck in – but now, more than ever, is the time to take the leap and push for change. 

Why is innovation so urgent?

Innovation – in other words, improving how your business works by changing your processes and systems – has become critical to agency survival. 

Ironically, innovation is so urgent because of the same reasons we put it on the back burner in the first place: there’s never enough time, and there’s never enough money. Agencies are operating under increasingly thin margins, and now facing the spectre of resourcing challenges once again. To survive and thrive, we have to change. 

Innovation is the only pathway out of this cycle, and it works on one key principle: creating efficiency

When you create efficiency, you create time. Because when you can spend less time working ‘in’ the business – making phone calls, sharing documents, updating systems multiple times – you can spend more time working ‘on’ the business: recruiting, marketing, bidding for tenders. These are all drivers of revenue and growth which empower your team to build a sustainable, healthy business. 

What does innovation look like for a care agency?

‘Innovation’ is an intimidating word, but for care agencies, it comes down to two main things: technology and data. And it breaks down into two key steps.

Step 1: Removing paper for good

There’s a reason behind the drive for digital social care records – it’s essential for business-critical efficiencies. Here’s what digitisation could involve and how it can impact your bottom line: 

  • Digital care management is transformative for efficiency, giving you a drastic reduction in the time spent on admin for both carers and care managers, but also makes preparing for inspections far less time-consuming. 

  • Digital rostering and messaging (with both carers and client families) mean that the hours lost to planning, phone calls and printing can be taken back. Using digital tools to automatically map carer availability to client needs, locations and preferences can create the most efficient runs with minimal effort. 

  • Digital invoicing and payroll mean your office team can spend more of their time on new business and growth.

Step 2: Consolidating disconnected systems 

Digitalisation isn’t a panacea – for many agencies who have ditched paper, there’s just as much pain as before, and this comes from having adopted siloed, disconnected tools. 

If rostering doesn’t connect to financing, then payroll wastes hours of your team’s time. If care management software doesn’t have a carer-facing app, you still need to update notes between visits. If care management doesn’t have a client-facing experience, you’ll still spend time on the phone and email updating families. The list goes on…

So for many agencies who have taken the first steps on the road to digitising, innovation means integration and consolidation – bringing all your processes into one place so that you can have all your people and all your data working together. This should be the goal for those who have taken the leap of digitising but are still finding themselves ‘papering over the cracks’ where their systems don’t meet. 

The bigger change ahead  

By now, we hope that it’s clear what investing in innovation can do at the individual agency level – but there’s more to this picture. 

At Birdie, we believe that the future of ageing in the UK is in the ‘village of care’. In other words, supporting an ageing individual is much like supporting our children: ‘it takes a village’. This means the whole network of health and social care actors coming together to not only provide an always-on, holistic network of support that’s centred on the individual, but in doing so connect their data. 

This connection of data is what unlocks the final mile of innovation: AI. 

Right now, different elements of care are provided by disconnected, independent bodies and individuals – from the care manager who creates an assessment, to a GP who gives a referral, to a community nurse who pays a visit. This means that knowledge and learning only travel as far as the individual professional – so even though nearly one million people receive care in England, patterns in conditions, responses and outcomes can never be spotted and never be learned from. 

And so care remains trapped in being reactive, and we miss thousands of opportunities every day to improve care quality and outcomes. This is where data can change everything. 

Through technology’s ability to not just collect billions of data points but to turn them into actionable and scalable insights, AI can turn them into a ‘collective wisdom’, empowering every member of the ‘village of care’ – particularly care agencies – with the insight and experience that can transform outcomes. 

At Birdie, these are the kinds of innovations we’re working on bringing to the care sector to help empower the players within it. So while the ‘now’ of innovation is about biting the bullet to meet today’s urgent challenges, the next phase of change is set to transform the health and social care sector completely. 





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