In the care industry, reputation is paramount. A care manager or proprietor cannot be present twenty-four hours a day, which necessitates that they must rely on staff to maintain standards. In most cases, this is not an issue.
Our industry attracts people that get job satisfaction from helping the elderly and the vulnerable. Yet, there are exceptions to the rule. We all remember the Panorama revelations of abuse at a North East psychiatric hospital or the national press coverage of a care home in Yorkshire where staff had been filmed verbally abusing their residents.
These, of course, are extreme cases and the result of a toxic culture that had been allowed to fester over a long period of time. However, it doesn’t always take such an acute breach of regulations (and common human decency) to severely damage the reputation of a care home. Sometimes it is simply an inability to recognise that a situation is developing.
In order to maintain or become CQC compliant, care homes have to meet the key lines of enquiry set by the Care Quality Commission. Care homes should be safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led.
Record keeping is an essential way of providing evidence that these five criteria are being met, but conversely, they can also be used to highlight areas of weakness within the care provision and the leadership of the management. Of course, if this information is filed away or stored in a computer hard drive, a trend towards declining care standards could easily be missed. However, rest assured, CQC will not miss it during an inspection.
It would be devastating to lose a high rating if all the information to avoid it was hidden away in a ring-binder or an electronic file.
On the other hand, who has the time to pour over hundreds of hours of care data, looking for potential signs of slipping standards? Further, if you saw it, would you recognise it as an isolated incident or a growing trend?
The key is to pre-set the standards within the data collection process and then create a warning mechanism when those pre-sets are exceeded. This requires an efficient compliance software package and therefore precludes manual data entry.
Some key indicators of falling care standards that can be flagged up are; slowing response times to nurse call activation, less time being spent with residents, personal care plan tasks being missed or late, uneven workloads between staff members, a general deterioration of mood amongst residents, incomplete care plan information, missed risk assessment reviews, etc.
All of this information should be recorded in the care data and it is a simple procedure to flag up growing trends to those responsible, by automated messaging. So it doesn’t matter if the manager or the proprietor is in the care home or on a beach somewhere warm, they can quickly and easily be made aware of a growing issue. They then have the time and opportunity to drill down into the details as to what is going wrong and how to address it.
A complete picture of both care provision and potential concerns requires a seamless integration of care data collection and nurse call system logging information. One compliments the other, allowing for cross referenced timings to care task recording, response times to reactive calls and automating much of the data, such as staff id, time spent with the resident, care plan task reminders and call escalation.
David J Schwartz, author of ‘The Magic of Thinking Big’ once said, ‘knowledge is power, but only when put to use - and then only when the use made of it is constructive’.
To simply comply with care regulations, it is necessary to have comprehensive care data. Used effectively though, that data can be analysed and acted upon to achieve and maintain a high CQC rating, protect the care home reputation and ultimately, safeguard the business.