We are witnessing an evolution in the technology available to the care sector. Gone are the days of dial-in electronic monitoring, we now have care management software with the operational capability of managing the entire care process on a single system. We are also beginning to see software products in the care sector with predictive capability. These have the potential of ensuring a more preemptive and outcome-based approach to care delivery.
There is increasing evidence that technology has a significant role to play in addressing the challenges faced by the care sector. This is why numerous organisations are now investing in technology.
Some companies have even invested in state-of-the-art software and hardware, change infrastructure and processes. Yet they still failed to achieve the desired digital transformation. This, I suggest, is partly because they failed to address the human element and didn’t change existing practices in their organisation.
Although my article is focused on the internal processes that will aid adoption of technology, there are other extrinsic factors that are hindering adoption, such as lack of awareness and cost implication. One way of overcoming these particular challenge is for Government to make some of the funding going into research and development of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics available to care providers to help them adopt basic operational technology. Data collected by pen and stored on paper is of limited use to everyone.
So, how do you go about changing the culture to bring about a smooth transition?
Digital transformation/technology adoption process can be split into two parts: adaptive change and technical change. Unfortunately, a digital process is often mistaken as only a technical change. However, getting a software and some shiny new gadgets does not translate into digital change. Ignoring the other aspects of change can give rise to detrimental issues.
An adaptive change relies on human behaviour to succeed. Unlike a technical change, an adaptive change cannot be planned out systematically. It has to be constantly reassessed and, as the name suggests, adapted.
An adaptive change is far more challenging. An organization should be prepared for a long journey whilst being aware of the need to keep its people onboard with the change.
Ideally, we must view technology as a combination of both these changes. This is because it is the interaction people have with technology that makes a major difference. It is this interaction that determines how smoothly a change comes about.
The following measures can go a long way to reducing the challenges that comes with digital transformation.
Unfortunately, some organisations tend to engage with the wider team at the implementation stage. However, in reality, an organisation should engage with the wider team at the planning stage of the digital journey. It is particularly important to interact with the front-line staff who will be the primary users of the new technology.
Involving the team gives you an opportunity to assess your capability and the readiness of the team for a change. Where engagement is properly done, the wider team will be able to share their fears and ideas which will form a part of your final plan for implementation. This also gives shared ownership of the plan, therefore reducing the likelihood of non-engagement during the implementation stage.
The engagement process must continue throughout the process. Needless to say, training and support must be prioritized. Allow time for your existing team to become confident and comfortable with the idea. There will be setbacks, but this should be seen as a learning opportunity. Engrave in the team that this is a new way forward and should be embraced.
Leadership and Communication
To achieve a successful digital transformation, transformational leadership style at every layer of the organization is a must. Senior managers should have a clear plan of why, how and what is needed for the transformation. It is essential to keep the team motivated throughout the process in order to achieve the set objectives.
No member of your team should be left behind in the process, including the most tech-pessimistic member of your team. My challenge to you will be to invest time and knowledge to win over the most pessimistic staff member, then make them the Digital Champion.
There are known misconceptions about technology, therefore the message should be well communicated; technology will not replace people but will compliment their work, drive efficiencies and improve the quality of care being delivered.
Make the transformation process as wholesome as possible. Share learnings with the team regularly, acknowledge the challenges and efforts, and celebrate milestones and achievements. Ensure everyone is aware at all times of what stage the transition has reached, including the people using your service because they are part of the change too.
Changing Policy and Procedure
Policies and practices are partly the drivers of culture in an organization, therefore you should be prepared to adopt new policies and new ways of doing things. There is a well-known phrase in the sector; ‘If it is not written down, it didn’t happen’. But does it really have to be written down even in a digital age? What about a video or audio recording? Surely, these should be acceptable forms of documentation also.
Whole Change Approach
To efficiently embed technology into an organisation there should be a plan from the onset to ensure the whole organisation and system, where necessary, become digitized. Having a completely digital approach at every level ensures that it becomes an identity and a way of life in the organisation. It becomes an essential part of your organizational culture. Although the change should be done stage by stage, trials and testing should be carried out throughout the scaling-up process. Indulge in long-term engagement; regular conversation stimulates interest, listen to the concerns of the end-users and adjust the technology accordingly.
It is critical to know that a successful transformation entails an organic approach to change. It is a journey. It takes time to engage staff and communities and to change habits. Social care organisations should build a user-centred culture that embraces technologies. Focus on user-engagement, support staff and promote information sharing. Be creative; see this as an opportunity to innovate to further enhance the quality of the care you are delivering. Hence, it is of paramount importance that you choose the right product the to meet the specific needs of your service and your overall digital objective.
Founder, Tech For Care
Tech for Care is the first and only UK review, comparison and product listing platform, dedicated to software and innovative technologies used in the social care sector (and health). We are creating a social care community resource where we can champion the digitization of the social care sector and promote more technology-enabled care services. As part of this focus, we deliver training, provide consultancy services and organise conferences. We are also actively engaged in research projects that seek to further explore the relationship between technology and care and the future of the care sector.