Robert Murray, manager of HC-One’s Greenfield Park Home in Glasgow, loves his digital pen. It’s got a long battery life, it’s easy to use and above all it is saving him hours of admin work every month.
He is just one of over 200 care home managers and field managers at HC-One now using digital pens, saving not only time but also delivering business benefits.
Across the business, managers and administrators now spend less time on paperwork so have more time to spend with residents and staff. Meanwhile the business is capturing vital management information and business intelligence and using it to drive efficiency.
Delivering for the business
Neil Drummond is HC-One’s High Impact Project Manager and oversaw the implementation of digital pens across HC-One’s 200-plus care homes. It is a small step technically that is making a huge difference to the business, he says.
He explains how the implementation started with the aim of helping care home staff to respond more efficiently to people calling to ask about a home placement. Care home workers were writing these details down manually before entering them into the central database for follow up. Using an electronic pen and digital form would allow staff to capture the information electronically and automatically. It was potentially a cost effective solution that required the right partner to support an implementation project across all HC-One care homes.
In 2013, HC-One selected Anoto as its business partner to take the project forward. “They understand what our business is about and work with us to find solutions,” says Neil.
A small pilot project in ten homes tested and refined the way staff used the pens. This showed that staff found them acceptable and easy to use. HC-One and Anoto jointly developed bespoke training material before rolling out two pens and digital forms to each of HC-One’s care homes. Simultaneously, HC-One rolled out digital pens to the field teams of operational managers who oversee groups of homes on a regional basis.
Today, the pens are making a huge difference to care home workers and managers, to the operational field managers and to the business as a whole.
Care home benefits
Robert explains the impact at care home level. “We are a large home with 109 beds and 130 staff,” he says. It has NHS continuing care beds, step-up step-down beds that are used to reduce long spells in hospital and beds for frail elderly people. With this many beds and this variety of uses, there are multiple meetings and frequent calls from people enquiring about beds, all generating paperwork.
“When we get a call inquiring about a place at our home, whoever answers now uses the digital pen to write down the callers’ details on our digital forms,” he says. “The pen and pad capture the details so all the information can be uploaded to a central database automatically.”
No more writing down details on paper, no more typing details into the system as this is now done automatically. The pen does not require wifi and it is easy to use – simply plug it into the computer and the information uploads to the central database automatically, ready for HC-One’s operational teams to follow up.
Robert also uses it for taking minutes. “I now use the digital pen and pad to capture details of meetings as they happen,” he says. These include monthly health and safety meetings, senior care meetings, residents meetings, staff training and so on.
“It is saving me a significant amount of time that I would have spent retyping my notes – time I can spend walking round the home, talking to staff and residents,” he says.
So far, over 14,500 enquiries have been logged digitally and over 1,600 key contacts recorded. Home administrators no longer have to enter the contact details onto the database manually – a task that previously took seven minutes per contact. HC-One says this alone is saving 70 days a year in admin time across the whole business.
Operational field managers who oversee groups of homes also use digital pens to capture notes as they walk around, saving hours of typing. They use them for monthly visits, for annual surveys of maintenance and upgrades and for HR meetings.
According to Neil, this reduction in paperwork has the potential to impact on staff morale. As any homeowner will know, paperwork and bureaucracy is a major source of dissatisfaction for carers and managers. Quite simply, they prefer spending time with residents to time at a keyboard.
Neil says: “One of the concerns from our staff survey last year was the amount of paperwork they have to do. Unfortunately a lot of this is a statutory requirement that we cannot change, so introducing digital pens is one of the methods we are using to try and reduce paperwork. The pens have reduced the duplication of work and increased job satisfaction. Colleagues can now spend more time doing what they are trained to do – spending time with residents.”
The benefits to the business are numerous, he adds. “The use of digital pens allows the central storage, maintenance and distribution of management information. The business can consistently check the data to ensure management information is accurate.”
HC-One is convinced that digital pens have a wider role in to play in the business. They are practical, cost effective, easy to use and acceptable to staff.
“We want to use the pens for any process where there is duplication or where we are failing to capture data centrally,” says Neil. HC-One and Anoto are currently looking at digitising a number of forms so they can be filled in by digital pen. By using Anoto Live Forms, HC-One will be able to capture handwritten information as digital data. The company believes that automating document processing is key to improve efficiency.
One example is accident and injury forms that are used to capture the detail of incidents, no matter how small. They are a crucial component of good governance, required both by HC-One’s governance processes and by care regulators.
Each form has to be completed by a nurse or carer, reviewed by a manager and inputted into the central database by an administrator.
Robert can’t wait for this form to be digitised. “The carers and nurses would still have to complete the forms but it would save me and my administrator hours,” he says.
The business benefits of all this in terms of hours saved and intelligence gleaned should be measurable. What may be less tangible is the value gained by home residents when their carers can spend more time with them and less time on the paperwork. And that is at the heart of the care home business.