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Asking the right questions

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Determining a service delivery strategy requires leadership, education and funding. So it’s important to get all your ducks in a row. 

I recently participated in an aged care industry event, and had a conversation with a CEO from a large community care provider that manages over 1000 carers. I asked my usual questions about the event – whether he was enjoying it, and what he thought of the overall issues being discussed.

His response surprised me. He described how the event still looked at the in-home care and aged care providers with issues that his organisation had already moved on from years ago.

He also pointed out that it seemed the industry had the wrong focus. In his view, the event reflected what the industry was asking for, as opposed to what clients and the government were now demanding. “We should be talking more about efficiency, transparency and communication in the service delivery process,” he said. “My people spend most of their time sorting issues with the service delivery over anything else.”

So what’s missing? Is it leadership? Better education of service delivery managers? Better funding? I believe that this all plays a role when determining a service delivery strategy.

However, perhaps the real reason is that these organisations are not aware that there are solutions in the market that can improve and optimise their service delivery strategies. The CEO I spoke to intimated that the problem was in service delivery and in his view, his employees spent most of their time managing and creating a ‘schedule’ of work for their clients.

The toughest issue facing service delivery organisations is managing the day to day tasks that are part of a client schedule, and trying to fit those requirements against an employee roster.

Issues arise when managing the roster for carers, or client schedules are broken due to exceptions such as clients cancelling appointments, carers calling in sick, priority of tasks and many others. If they failed to deliver services as agreed with the client, then they start seeing poorer care outcomes for the client.

So what is out there for service delivery organisations?

Five years ago, if you wanted to put a mobile device in the hands of a carer the cost would have been in the thousands, just for the hardware. Currently, an Android smartphone can be purchased for well under $300. In some cases, carers will already have a smartphone as most mobile providers only sell smartphones.

So what can you do with a smartphone in your hand? With the current HTML5 technology, it is possible to deploy mobile solutions to most mobile devices on the market. These mobile applications can be used to update carers about their rosters, appointment details, client information relevant to their visit and obtain proof of service from the client via signature or location aids, e.g. A-GPS.

However, the obvious questions with any technology whether new or entrenched, arise in relation to security, information privacy and mobile infrastructure. So let’s look at my next topic: the cloud.

Service delivery organisations are not IT experts and setting up expensive infrastructure for IT systems is costly and not the focus of a service delivery organisation. Cloud services can minimise a lot of the IT costs associated with setting up mobile workforce management solutions by avoiding heavy capital expenditure. This approach frees up service delivery organisations to continue to focus on what they do best, and leave the cloud service provider with managing the IT systems.

The most pertinent question that arises with cloud services in aged care and community care service delivery is around security and privacy of client information. Protecting this data is important and there are plenty of safeguards offered by cloud providers that can be put in place to address privacy and security issues. Is it a good reason to stop an organisation from going ahead with a better service delivery model that is more cost efficient?

I remember when I got my first BlackBerry, and how the same arguments on security were used by people within my company not to use BlackBerrys. Six months later, no one had any issues with it, seven years later and people put their corporate emails on many devices. It can be done with the right safeguards in place mitigating any potential risk.

Transparency is such an important issue that it goes to the heart of everything an organisation in delivering aged care or community care is trying to achieve. The government has recognised that even though the goal of service delivery organisations is a better outcome for their clients, organisations providing community care and aged care may not always have the level of transparency clients are asking for.

The government has addressed this issue with Consumer Directed Care (CDC). CDC packages ensure that clients will have a say on their budget allocated to their care, have a say on the schedule, the make-up of their appointments and even choose different providers if necessary.

How do you provide such transparency? By taking control of your service delivery to the point that clients can re-book, update and change appointments where necessary without having to pick up the phone.

There are tools available by organisations that address the points raised by the CEO in the aforementioned conversation. Perhaps the introduction of CDC will be the catalyst for a change in strategy across the sector.

Manolo Yanes is a senior solutions consultant with ClickSoftware.

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