18 December 2017

We are not robots

As Newcross rolls out a range of new digital services, Stephen Pattrick argues that technology should always help people to care for others, not replace human interaction.

Much has been written about how technology will change the way in which society cares for sick and vulnerable people. The benefits are many but so too are the risks.

Analysing clinical data can help with diagnoses and drug development. But there are well-founded concerns about patient privacy and the opportunity for the abuse of data. Robots and digital pets can provide supervision and companionship but is this what we would want for our loved ones? 

This must surely always be our benchmark. Technology can be a great tool, but there are some things that people will always do best. Care is founded on relationships, and great care demands not just expertise but also empathy. It’s this philosophy that’s underpinned our approach to new technology within Newcross.

A recent example of this is our new website. It’s designed to be a helpful and convenient first point of contact for many prospective employees, clients and service users. However, it’s not intended to replace frontline staff in branches or clinical experts.

New website

We’re building a library of articles, reference materials and answers to frequently asked questions which people can access instantly, 24/7. This growing body of information is designed to supplement the advice and guidance from our trained teams, including Central Support and Clinical Governance. We want our staff to have more time to listen and talk, providing assurance and support. Our aim is to be able to share links, downloads and videos to make it easier to explain often complex subject matters.

Similarly, we’ve invested in new technologies to make applying for a job at Newcross swifter and more straightforward, whether you’re in the staffroom or on the bus. The selection and vetting process is still managed by experienced recruitment professionals but the ‘user journey’ is made easier by managing a great deal of form-filling, tracking and communications.

Unquestionably, in this enlightened era of greater scrutiny and regulation, healthcare professionals have to wrestle with myriad processes. Most would agree that for every minute that they spend completing forms and ticking boxes, they’re not spending time on the fundamental task; caring for people in need.

Granted, since ‘day one’, at Newcross we’ve been obsessive about rigorous management; of people and processes. What’s more, some degree of bureaucracy – such as MAR charts or care plans – is essential to both maintain and evidence high standards of care.

That said, there are many tasks that although vital, are better handled by technology. This is why we’ve developed HealthForceGo®, the handy app that makes some of the more mundane but necessary tasks easier. HealthForceGo enables us to match shifts with the best people quickly, ensuring that only available staff with pertinent skills are allocated to the most appropriate care scenarios. 

The app also does away with paper time sheets, provides staff, branches and clients with a summary of past and future shifts and calculates mileage to ensure staff get exactly the reimbursements they’re due. And when you’re ready to head off home, you can get your shift signed off by clients and check your payslips… all via your phone.

Some industry commentators have described HealthForceGo as “the UBER for healthcare professionals”, but this really isn’t a great analogy. UBER – arguably - removes a layer of personal oversight and quality assurance that was previously central to licensed taxi services. In contrast, HealthForceGo takes away time-consuming admin to allow us more time and resources to focus on developing people and best practice.          

So, I’m a passionate advocate of technology. It’s certainly helped us to grow and build a reputation for providing a consistently reliable service. But even the most advanced artificial intelligence cannot replace what make us special; exceptional (human) staff.