Which Comes First, The Tech or The Care?
When resources are scarce, decisions about how to deploy them most effectively are always more challenging. Add that challenge and throw the complexity of dealing with the fallout of the pandemic into the mix, and the challenge becomes almost unprecedented in magnitude. Nowhere has this unprecedented degree of challenge been felt more than in organisations responsible for the provision of healthcare and social services. Here, the focus is always on how to maximise the impact of the resources at the front line, so that patients or beneficiaries receive the best outcomes.
The question is, what comes first, the tech or the care?
Do we choose to send more frontline workers into the fields where they are needed most, using conventional methods? Or do we choose to divert some of our scarce financial resources towards the upgrade of our technologies which will assist in making those frontline workers more efficient and effective in their roles?
In reality, we have a choice between short term efficiency or long-term effectiveness. We must find the right balance between those options.
The ability to optimise frontline outcomes for beneficiaries is hampered by the following challenges:
- Administration requirements
- Amount and accuracy of relevant information
- Time required to perform manual operations
- Frontline worker dissatisfaction leading to unwanted staff turnover
- Keeping data and systems secure from cyber compromise.
There can be no argument that maximising the quality and amount of the time skilled frontline care workers are able to provide care, rather than spending their time on administration tasks will have a proportionate enhancement to the quality-of-care outcomes. There can also be no argument that the only way that extra time can be created for the provision of care is to reduce the administration time and oversight effort through technological innovations. Indeed, technological advances can also improve the quality of the care as well.
For people in organisations where caring for their patients or beneficiaries is the main focus, understanding the contribution that investment in new technologies can make towards the quality of that care is often sub-optimal due to their focus on care rather than tech. And that is hardly surprising, because keeping up with advances in technology is hard enough for IT professionals, let alone people who don’t work in IT roles every day.
But this is where the challenge lies.
One of the major opportunities in healthcare and social services organisations today involves the automation of business processes to enable greater impact on the frontline. Automation enables people to spend more time on higher impact work. At the same time, this has a side benefit of creating greater job satisfaction, which leads to increased retention of staff, and thus lowering costs of hiring and training new people. Often these flow on benefits are not considered when thinking about technology investment and developing strategy around technology.
Where decisions about IT in service organisations are made around improving what they have instead of understanding what would help them accelerate the achievement of their organisational objectives, sub-optimal choices are made, and progress slows down or worse – stalled.
Process automation provides significant opportunities to alleviate the restrictions on time spent optimising frontline outcomes. Learning and investing in these areas should be a high priority for any healthcare or social services executive wanting to support their organisation’s imperatives, objectives and vision.