Choose the right software for aged care: assessing your current situation

| 05 Aug 2013
Cloud computing

Whether you’re just looking to make upgrades to existing software, or planning to overhaul your entire care management system, choosing the right software to implement can be a daunting process. Especially considering the resulting effects the wrong decision can have on your organisation.

But with so many software providers promising you the world, and so many solutions to choose from, how do you decide which provider is going to be right for you and your organisation?

Well, first things first. It is very challenging to determine whether a specific technology or software solution is the right one, without first gathering the evidence to assess your organisation’s specific situation.

What technology already exists?

As a first step, conduct a technology audit of your organisation. This should cover a combination of the software and programs you use; hardware and equipment such as computers and laptops; internet connections; and any other technology that may play a role in your day-to-day business processes.

After compiling a list of the technology your organisation already has in place, think about how effective it is. Is it currently serving your organisation as effectively as it could be? Currently, where are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to technology? From here, try to divide the existing technology into these three categories: ‘satisfactory’, ‘poor’ and ‘needs improvement’. This will help you determine the holes that need to be filled in order to make your organisation run more effectively.

Identifying your pain points

Considering implementing new software without first consulting the people who will be using it daily is a mistake. Besides, when you’re used to existing methods of working – even if they’re inefficient – considering the ways to improve can sometimes be difficult to see. Discussing your business processes with your team will help you uncover the ways that technology can streamline those processes.

Whether it is a group discussion or one-to-one chat, try to involve as many staff as you can in this process. Prompt them with questions such as:

  • In what ways do you use technology in your day-to-day role?
  • What problems, issues or challenges would you consider to be the highest priority?
  • What do you do if you experience a problem with the technology you’re using?
  • Do you believe technology helps you do your job better?
  • In what ways do you access and share information with other staff, residents, clients, etc?
  • How could new types of technology help our organisation to operate more efficiently?
  • In what ways could technology streamline our workflows and processes?

Defining your goals

By this point, you should now have an accurate assessment of key issues, problems and challenges that will need to be addressed, either in the short term or long term. However, prior to exploring and reviewing the possible solutions available to you, it is also useful to have a clear idea of your goals.

Goals are the guiding statements that describe what the implementation of new software will achieve. The goals that you set should also be directly related to the issues, problems and challenges that you identified in the previous steps.

For example, if you operate a facility that has identified that there is double-handling around the way that resident information is captured, accessed and managed, the related goal may be:

‘To simplify the management and handling of resident information.’

When thinking about your specific goals, start by asking yourself what benefits do you hope the new software will deliver? What specific problems on your list are the priorities to resolve? Some of the more common, high-level goals that we find many aged care organisation have when sourcing new software include:

  • Reduce compliance risks and medication-related errors
  • Maximise opportunities for funding
  • Enhance care delivery and outcomes
  • Streamline work flows and processes
  • Develop better communication channels with carers
  • Consolidate administration and documentation
  • Create greater visibility and transparency
  • Improve organisational efficiencies

Defining functional requirements

Now that you have assessed your specific situation and have a clearer idea of what you want to achieve, it is time to spend some time summarising the functional requirements that are most important and relevant to you. The functional requirements are the kinds of features and functions that the new solution must have in order to contribute effectively in helping you reach your goals.

For example, the functional requirements of a clinical and care management system can be split into the following broad categories: occupancy management; progress notes; observation charts; assessment forms; handover reports; care plans; ACFI calculator and optimisation; management reporting and more.

When determining the specific features and functions that will be essential in helping you address the most important problems, it may be useful for you to assign an ‘essential’, ‘desirable’, and a ‘nice to have’ score next to each requirement.

Essential requirements are those features that are absolutely necessary and the proposed solution must be capable of delivering these. For example, a community care service provider seeking a scheduling and rostering solution for their organisation may consider these two features to be essential requirements:

‘The solution must enable staff to easily create and distribute rosters with greater efficiency.’

‘The solution must be able to capture information remotely, and have functionality to create time sheets, payroll and mileage information, based on this data.’

Desirable requirements are those features of slightly lower importance, however the solution should be capable of delivering on a decent number of these. The home and community care service providers mentioned above may consider these to be desirable requirements:

‘The solution reduces telephone traffic and allows coordinators to electronically send updates and messages to care workers and clients using the stored contact information within the software.’

Finally, nice to have requirements are those features marked as least important but none-the-less would be of benefit to users of the software. An example of a ‘nice to have’ requirement is:

‘The solution should be able to provide reminders  of  important dates such as client birthdays.’

Armed with a summary of essential and non-essential functional requirements, along with a clear understanding of what you are hoping to achieve, you are now ready to properly compare the various solutions and software providers in the market.

Have a question about the steps to take when choosing the right software for aged care? Please share your questions and comments in the section below. 

(Image credit: Jannoon028)

Tags: aged care, aged care software, technology

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The iCareHealth Team

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