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Committee delivers better care

How one provider is ensuring its continence products meet its standards.

It’s every provider’s nightmare.

Your continence supplier changes products, without notifying you. And unfortunately the new products result in unsatisfactory products, unhappy staff and unhappy clients.

Such a scenario is what prompted major residential and community aged care provider Brightwater to implement an organisation-wide, centralised process for product and equipment review and replacement.

“An organisation like ours caters to a large and diverse group of people – across residential, community and clients in younger people’s homes. An important requirement to providing high quality care is ensuring we use the best products and equipment,” says Tonia Zeeman, general manager of services for older people at Brightwater.

“A couple of years ago we had some continence products, which hadn’t been properly assessed or vetted, slipping into use in the facilities. Some of these were, for various reasons, sub-optimal. Some were imported, which meant they didn’t have instructions written in English. The volume capacity wasn’t up to the required standard, or some had Velcro fasteners on the side which caused skin irritation.

“In other cases, they were coming in packages which looked similar to baby diapers. This was somewhat embarrassing and degrading for our community care clients, as often they are given to them in the packaging. We needed to avoid that.”

Therefore, having a structured, centralised process for reviewing supplies and products was becoming a major need.

The provider underwent a process of establishing a formal product review committee, made up of senior, high level staff.

“The committee is made up of representatives of our care services department, health and safety officers, our purchasing departments. We meet fairly regularly. In those meetings we consider requests for new supplies – whether to implement it on a trial basis, for example, and how that would proceed,” says Zeeman.

The committee is now driving organisation-wide, uniform standards in product and supply delivery and replacement.

“It is informing things like the items we have on our purchasing lists, the management of our replacement programs, ensuring we have a safe work environment for staff and the best service and outcomes for residents and clients.”

It also means that supplied products, such as those for incontinence, are thoroughly evaluated and re-evaluated. “Is it comfortable for the client? Is there a variety of absorbency? Do they cause skin irritation? We can also provide advice to staff about delivery and ensure everything is ok.”

Associated with this, feedback and input from clinicians in facilities is encouraged and channelled back to the committee.

Zeeman says the committee’s work has enhanced the standard of products and supplies used, therefore enhancing client and resident outcomes.

“Having a structured process means you can deliver better care, good pricing capacity, good quality of products and a safe working environment for staff.

“All the managers in our sites, our clinical and allied health staff are all aware of the process we use. They know how to request a new product, or recommend one. And they are confident in the knowledge that the products we use have been thoroughly vetted and approved.”

While the system ensures uniformity of quality across the organisation, Zeeman says it also caters for individuality. “The focus is always on the best outcomes for the individual client or resident. So if a product doesn’t suit someone we do allow for exceptions. We will look for an alternative that best suits that person,” she says.

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