Much has been made recently of the increase in the use of technology in Social Care since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. A lot of this has focussed on the uptick in the use of videocalls to help keep people receiving care and support in touch with their loved ones and also on various remote patient monitoring solutions such as pulse oximetry. However, as well as the wide range of technologies to support care delivery, care providers are increasingly adopting digital solutions which can help to improve their business operations. An obvious example of this is payroll – it seems unlikely that anyone would still be using ledgers and a calculator to run payroll in 2021!
More and more care providers are using electronic rostering systems (e-rostering) to replace paper rosters. In our recent research with Skills for Care, just over 50% of care providers (care homes and home care) from a representative sample were now using e-rostering solutions in their organisations.
There are numerous benefits of electronic rotas: they reduce the amount of time spent writing and disseminating rotas; they can be updated more easily to adjust to shift changes, holidays and sickness; and they can make it easier to run payroll. Some solutions also allow staff to access their rotas from their phones so they can pick up shifts and manage their own rotas more efficiently.
As with purchasing any kind of technology, it can always be difficult to know where to start and to know that you are making the right decisions for your organisation. There are some important things to consider when starting to look at purchasing electronic rostering systems:
- 1. What outcomes do you want to achieve?
At Digital Social Care we always recommend that you consider your desired outcomes at the outset of purchasing any new technology. Operations Systems can be expensive and making the wrong choice can be detrimental to your organisation’s digital journey. Think about why you would like to start using e-rostering – is it because you would like your rotas to be available to staff on their phones so they can update their time and attendance remotely? Because it would be quicker and easier for you to create rotas? So that you can make travel payments?
By having a clear idea of what success would look like for you and your organisation, you can then start to narrow down the suppliers who won’t help you achieve those outcomes because they have different priorities and areas of focus. This will also help you to not buy a product with additional functionality which you won’t use.
- 2. Does the software integrate?
It is important to think about how your organisation is currently using technology and also how you might be using it in the future. It is unlikely that you will want your e-rostering system to be completely stand alone and not link with any of your other systems. For example, ideally the e-rostering system you use would link to your existing payroll system. This would allow the information from your rotas to flow easily into payroll without you having to enter data again.
When different software systems can be linked together to share information, this is called interoperability or third-party integration. You should ask the software suppliers you are considering about how they work with other systems and which companies they work with. For example, after using e-rostering, you might decide to start using a staff management solution to keep track of training and to digitise staff files. It could be helpful for this to be linked to your e-rostering solution. Some companies will offer both solutions themselves, while others will integrate with other companies. It is important that you find this out before you are locked into a contract.
Also, some home care organisations might have a contract with a Local Authority where you are expected to use a specific software system for invoicing, case management or time and attendance. It will be important to know that the e-rostering solution you are considering can interoperate with the Local Authority’s system so that you don’t add administrative burden to your staff.
- 3. What support is available?
Finally, when looking to purchase any digital system you should have a clear understanding about what support the company will provide you with for the duration of your contract. You should know whether you will receive training on how to use the system and how many staff can be trained. You should also know if there is a technical helpline available if there is an issue with the system at any point.
Katie Thorn is the Digital Engagement Manager at the Registered Nursing Home Association (RNHA) and project manager for Digital Social Care, a partnership project between the Care Provider Alliance, Skills for Care and NHS Digital. For social care providers, by social care providers Digital Social Care provides free guidance and support on technology to adult social care providers across England.