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Care Managers Show

29 - 30 NOVEMBER 2024 EXCEL, LONDON

14 Mar 2024

Guest blog: Living our values in care homes as we introduce technology

Guest blog: Living our values in care homes as we introduce technology

Samir Patel from iCare Services shares advice for introducing new technology into care homes, without losing sight of your company values.

Caring, compassionate and respectful: these are values that care homes live and work by. Good owners and managers live by these values and encourage their staff to live by them too. But sometimes we get led astray, especially in times of change.

Technology can sometimes make us forget our values. Nobody goes to work in the morning wanting to do a poor job – particularly in the care sector. Everyone wants to provide the best care they can. So how do we introduce technology into care homes and still live those values?

People have values. Technology does not. People care. Technology does not. We are flesh and blood. Technology is just bits and bytes, machines talking to each other. There are positive reasons for introducing technology into care homes, as well as negative ones. It falls to leaders to choose the right path, led by the established values, and to introduce technology that benefits the vulnerable people for whom we are privileged to care.

Bad, better, best reasons for adopting technology

Negative reasons for introducing technology are to cut staff, or to use it as a stick to beat your staff with. Technology can’t deliver care; people deliver care. It can save you time (no more filling in paper forms or searching through a mountain of old records) and help you to avoid making mistakes (not mixing up medication or giving the wrong treatment). It can help you to plan the care you want to deliver and make sure that every step gets done along the way. Tech can help you to deliver better care, more efficiently and have the capacity to be responsive, but you can’t replace carers with computers.

Eventually, care homes will be forced to adopt technology. The CQC’s portal will require online reporting. There has been plenty of warning. Well-led homes look forward and don't need to be dragged towards the future.

The best reasons for introducing technology are value-led. Tech can provide evidence of good practice and identify problems, such as missed actions, in real-time. It can identify patterns, trends and gaps in provision. Good leaders, driven by care and compassion, will use data to improve care standards, prevent harm and respond to the changing needs of residents. Technology can help with accountability (who did what, when?) but if you don’t trust your team to do a good job without a computer monitoring them, then you have a bigger problem. Big Brother doesn’t belong in care homes.

Good leaders welcome accountability. Data can help you to demonstrate your values when the regulators knock on your door. You want to be caring, safe, responsive, effective, and to lead well because those are your values; use technology to prove it. You want to attract new residents and to recruit and retain good, caring staff. An efficient, responsive home is an attractive place to live and work in. It is also a more profitable business. Profit is not something we should be coy about. Delivering good care efficiently is the business we are in. Making money by living your values is the most satisfying work.

Practical advice

Introducing technology into a care setting is a big change in operations; failing to recognise and acknowledge that will set up the rest of your project to fail. There will be changes on the floor delivering care, as well as in the office monitoring and auditing. The technology might be new, but the leadership of change is as old as the hills. Lead change through your values and don’t let the technology get in the way of your objectives: to provide more, better and safer care, which will lead to increased efficiency and responsiveness.

Involving staff – at all levels – is the key to minimising the pain of introducing new systems. Appoint some ‘champions’ to lead the changes at their level and model new ways of working. Don’t be afraid to change course if something doesn’t work; you are not introducing technology for its own sake, but because you want to make your home better. Don’t be surprised if your older staff adapt to it faster than their younger counterparts.

Care for your staff as you care for your residents. Make sure that the systems you use are adaptable to the people using them, not the other way around. If you use a handset, can you change the size of the text, adjust the volume, make the screen brighter, or capture speech as text? Is it too big and heavy, and does the battery last for a whole shift? There's no wrong time to make the right decision, so if it isn't working, change it! People matter more than machines.

Some concerns need to be addressed ahead of time. Some are old worries in a new setting. For example, training and maintenance must be provided, and as diligent leaders you need to plan them before you start. Poorly trained staff won’t magically make a new system work. Unmaintained systems will break eventually. Some concerns are new. Data protection, privacy and backups are part of deploying technology and your governance needs to have policies, founded in your home’s values, which you put into action.

"The fool wonders, the wise man asks,” said Benjamin Disraeli. A little humility can go a long way; you don’t have to know everything, and people will respect you for being open when you don’t. If you need help, ask. Seek out others who have gone through this before you and contact impartial professionals who can help. See it in action in another home and talk to their staff. Local care associations and national bodies such as Skills for Care can provide you with impartial advice, support and training.

Looking forward

The future will bring more technology and more change. It’s going to get bigger, faster and smarter. Artificial Intelligence is still finding its feet in social care, but the technology will only get better. It will bring new insights that we can’t imagine today, so your challenge is to harness its new abilities to deliver more, better care.

In times of change, we could all do with a few moments of reflection on why we are doing what we are doing. Dig out that list of your home’s values and give it another read. That is who you are and what you do.

 


 

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