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How technology can keep care providers compliant

Paul Patarou - Divisional Manager, Health & Social Care Division, Access Group

There’s no denying that the care sector is complex. Providers are constantly dealing with new legislation and regulatory challenges. We had the National Living Wage and then the backdated pay for sleep-in-shifts that was set to put further pressure on the industry.  From Care Quality Commission audits to the recent Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) concerns, staying compliant is difficult but essential.

Care providers have to juggle the time and cost of meeting their obligations, alongside the financial and reputational risk should they not come up to standard. Most domiciliary and residential care providers do a great job. They are diligent and care deeply about their clients. The problem often centres around inefficiencies in their processes either because they’re too busy or they don’t know that they can make their lives easier.

Inefficient processes

The use of manual paper-based or Excel-based systems makes it particularly difficult to keep track of what’s going on. Even worse is when information is stored inside someone’s head! This not only poses a risk if that person leaves the organisation, it can waste endless hours at audit time trying to pull all the information together. That’s time better spent elsewhere.

However, it’s not only compliance for audits where problems arise but also in the day-to-day running of the business. For instance, calculating employee pay and travel time manually is risky, particularly as it tends to be more complex in the care sector. Travel costs vary and separate rates apply for different shifts. It’s so easy for errors to creep in or to omit something by mistake.

Keeping on the right side of health and safety legislation is yet another case in point. Trying to track who needs training, when that training needs to be updated or when a procedure was last carried out is difficult at best. Having strict processes in place is critical. Violating health and safety means penalties and fines as well as undermining the wellbeing of staff and clients.

Supporting compliance

The more legislation and regulation there is, the more software and technology can help care providers stay compliant and deal with the complexity.

Take the CMA study*, which is still ongoing. Their initial findings gave them further concerns including poor information on care choice, lack of complaints procedures and that some residential care providers may be breaking consumer law.

Publishing prices on the website, outlining the care that will be given, and having a clear policy and procedure for complaints will go some way to improve transparency and quality of care. There’s a great deal that can be done in the background as well.

Having the systems and workflows in place to track complaints, for instance, will encourage everyone to follow a set procedure. Being able to trace what happened, when and with whom, will help to avoid problems arising in the first place. And if the worst should happen, there’ll be a clear audit trail which can be reviewed so everyone learns from the mistakes and continues to improve.

In fact, technology can help to support compliance at every touch point in the relationship with the client and their family. Tracking when risk assessments have been carried out, managing incidences, monitoring concerns about a client or changes to their care provision can help providers stay within the law.

On the employee side, electronic timesheets, expenses and payroll systems not only speed up the administration of pay-related tasks, they can help ensure that the minimum wage is being paid and that an organisation is adhering to other requirements like pension auto-enrolment as well as RTI.

The bottom line is that when it’s audit time or a compliance issue does arise that it can be dealt with quickly and efficiently. Being able to answer questions, offer proof, and showing that there’s a definite procedure in place when problems occur will help to alleviate some of the pain.  It reduces risk too, helping care providers stay compliant with the current and future regulation and legislative demands they face.

 

* https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cma-outlines-emerging-concerns-in-care-homes-market

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