From not acting on an infection fast enough to no formal procedures for reporting accidents, inefficient incident management can have dire consequences. It negatively impacts a care provider’s reputation, carries huge financial implications, erodes the trust of staff, client and relatives – and ultimately could cause loss of life or serious damage to health and wellbeing.
No one would argue that proper incident management is a critical aspect of care provision. However, it can be tough day-to-day to keep all plates spinning. Regular training will help carers to understand what constitutes an incident and the right level of action to take. But mistakes do happen, and a mistimed incident could be overlooked without the correct procedures and systems in place.
Why workflows matter?
That’s why it’s important to have electronic workflows in place. They provide a structure, a blueprint almost, for how to respond to incidents. When you have to take fast action, workflows act as prompts to ensure nothing is missed and that the relevant people are alerted including CQC.
In fact, we only have to look at some of the CQC inspection reports to get a feel for where providers face problems. This could be anything from not notifying CQC of instances that a provider is required to do by law, ineffective audits resulting in missed opportunities for improvements and generally not investigating or acting on incidents that occur.
This often comes down to not having robust audit and quality assurance systems in place. But making electronic records isn’t enough. If there are no workflows to actively alert the relevant individuals when something goes wrong, such as mistakes with medication or missed calls, then there’s a disconnect in the process. Tasks aren’t managed properly, and problems can go undetected. And this is where the cracks start to appear.
In an ideal world, workflows should also be customisable, with the ability to create your own. Being able to adapt the system to business requirements, including regulatory changes or new demands from clients or commissioners, provides greater freedom to ensure compliance, reduce risk and increase efficiency.
Workflows in practice
Providing access to mobile devices allows carers to report incidents as they happen – or at least as soon as feasibly possible. If a client falls and injures themselves being able to quickly request assistance, attach and annotate photographs and take notes using speech to text allows all the details to be quickly captured – even when offline. The level of notetaking will depend on the incident but could also include a health and safety issue that’s been spotted, a relative complaining about a loved one’s care or even physical abuse.
If multiple people are trying to update the record at the same time, any system should have an audit log so that data isn’t lost. Having a clear audit trail of everything that happened is essential to ensure the correct action is taken and to meet statutory requirements. Designated individuals can be alerted to what is happening in real time, with access to the incident report, so decisions can be made and CQC or other bodies can be notified depending on the situation.
Being able to report on incidents also means that after an event, proper debriefings can take place. Could the situation have been avoided? Was everything done that should have been done? What improvements can be made? Is staff training required? Every effort should be made to learn from the event and to implement changes when needed – or, indeed, highlight if a situation was handled exceptionally well.
Whilst good internal practices will help to avoid such problems occurring in the first place, it’s always wise to ensure that the mechanisms are in place for effective incident management. After all, reputations and human lives depend on it.
To learn how Access Group’s health and social care solutions can help you with incident reporting, click here.