Should Care Homes Go Digital?
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently released a report detailing the effects of excessive amounts of paperwork on the ability of care home staff to provide adequate hands-on care to residents. Is their treatment adversely affected?
The Cost of Legislative Compliance
The large amount of paperwork has long been a concern for care home staff, owners and managers. The situation worsens as more and more legislation and accompanying regulations continue to be introduced. This brings even more paperwork to ensure compliance, or indeed to avoid blame where an issue does arise. It is estimated that managers spend as much as 20 percent of their time completing, and often needlessly duplicating, paperwork to meet these regulatory requirements.
The objective of keeping such detailed records is to improve the quality of care provided and to reduce risk as far as is possible. But is the design of the paperwork, and the quantity, actually putting residents at risk on a day-to-day basis? The more time care home staff are required to spend sitting at a desk filling out forms, the less time they are able to spend interacting with and caring for the residents.
The report found that care homes are required to fill out over 100 individual pieces of paperwork on a regular basis — much of which is duplicate information. What’s more, when researchers interviewed the care home staff in person, they confessed to feeling that appraisals were very much based on their ability to complete paperwork rather than their ability to deliver quality care to residents. There is probably a no more successful method of stripping staff of their sense of vocation and the knowledge that they can make a difference to the lives of the elderly people in their care. In addition, there appears to be a lack of ability to adequately measure the quality of interaction and care provided without the use of paperwork to back it up. This needs to change.
It seems the balance between promoting good-quality care, preventing accidents and reducing incidences of poor care through conscientious record-keeping is not being achieved. Placing pressure and instilling fear in care home staff, managers and owners, and prompting them to spend time filling out pointless paperwork in an attempt to protect themselves against blame or litigation, is frequently at the cost of time spent with residents.
A recommendation made on the back of the study was for the sector to reconsider priorities and make changes to the way care is delivered. The report suggested that administration is simplified to allow for a greater degree of more personalised face-to-face care.
One solution is for the introduction of digital filing systems in care homes and other residential care facilities. It is believed that done properly, such a move could free up staff for more practical tasks by reducing the time spent completing forms and other paperwork. Digitalising systems could simplify contracts and make legal obligations both easier to understand and to comply with. Files could be accessed instantly, by any member of staff permitted to view the records. Where updates are required, these can be completed instantly and applied to several areas at once, avoiding the current repetitive system. The potential to miss important areas of paperwork can be avoided.