The health and social care sector faces numerous hurdles when it comes to resource expenditure. With budget cuts and staffing issues plaguing the industry, you need to be careful where time and money is spent. But at the same time, with the government looking for better results, you need to be investing in ways to not only survive but also thrive.
The problem is that this statement in itself is an oxymoron. Without money to invest and staff to complete tasks, how can your healthcare business or practice hope to improve? The answer is simple: it’s all about keeping costs down and pushing efficiency up.
This is easier said than done.
Healthcare organisations are looking to develop their workplace and create a more effective environment — one that supports fast task completion and enhances workflow — while simultaneously remaining within often tight budgets.
It’s no small order, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
The competitive world of software and online tools development means that a wide range of solutions have become available to healthcare organisations; ones that promise to boost productivity and efficiency by streamlining current practices and without costing the Earth. These tools don’t require updates to hardware, internal software or employee training, which helps reduce their cost impact further.
So what exactly are these miracle online tools, and how can you use them to support a more sustainable future for your healthcare organisation?
Online Task Management
Here’s a statistic you might not be aware of: around 50% of your employees aren’t entirely sure what is expected of them at work. Most are broadly aware of their goals and targets, as well as their role, but exactly what is involved in that role can be a bit of a grey area. This is not conducive to workplace efficiency and can leave tasks incomplete, carried out by the wrong individual or left until the last minute.
From a managerial perspective, having to check in and make sure everyone is always up to speed on what they need to do is not efficient working practice either. Healthcare organisations could benefit from a more streamlined process whereby workers are as autonomous as possible while remaining aware of what is expected for them.
Task management solutions — such as Teamwork or Trello — are cloud-based tools that could be the answer. These types of tools allow you to create recurring task lists and project plans online, matching workers to appropriate work while setting parameters like instructions and deadlines. Workers can then use the technology, accessing it from computers and smart devices, to assess what is required of them and understand exactly what they need to do and when. You are also able to monitor work to make sure tasks are completed on schedule and that changes are made to work practices that aren’t as cost-effective as they could be.
A word of warning, though. Proper training is absolutely vital when introducing a new means of managing work streams in this way. Last summer, it was discovered that a number of government documents — from office security pass information all the way through to details of communications with MI5 and counter-terrorism officials — were accessible via Google searches. This was due to the online task management programme Trello’s privacy settings for different assignments. If a project is set to public access at any point, Google indexes the data. This leak of sensitive data was easily preventable and entirely due to a lack of awareness of the platform being used.
Automated Unified Communications Provisioning
Healthcare companies are heavy users of Unified Communications (UC) platforms. They are very dynamic organizations and have a large demand for moves, adds, changes and deletes (MACDs) from their UC solutions. The administration and maintenance of UC can be very time consuming if it is done manually. Fortunately, there are UC provisioning automation solutions that streamline the workflows and minimize the time and resources spent on managing MACDs.
Faxing is an integral part of the healthcare system. 9,000 units are still in operation across the NHS and many private organisations rely on them to send information such as patient records and signed documentation. However, fax machines are not efficient methods of communication. What’s more, the NHS has now banned any new purchases of fax machines from January 2019, and old units must be phased out entirely by the end of April 2020. The reasons for this move are the security, time-related and practical weaknesses fax machines have, such as:
- Potential for signal outages
- Slowdowns caused by workforce queues
- An inability to send multiple files at once
- Loss of coverage caused by maintenance
- Time involved in sending large fax files like patient records
- Costs absorbed through associated resources like paper and ink
- Time lost in transmission of pages — one minute per page on average
- Documents can only be transmitted if you are in the vicinity of the fax machine
Clearly, fax machines are not supporting efficient healthcare operations, but with fax processes themselves both entrenched in the system and offering benefits to those who work in the health and social care sector, removal of the platform entirely won’t help either.
Online cloud-faxing services — such as those provided by businesses like eFax — offer cloud-based solutions to common problems. Online faxing works entirely on digital channels, with files submitted through online portals accessed via computers and mobile applications. Boosts to efficiency come from the simple removal of inefficiencies in fax machines as highlighted above. Online cloud faxing means:
- You aren’t reliant on the outdated analogue signal, dramatically reducing the risk of downtime
- Workers can access fax capabilities from a multitude of devices, resulting in no time wasted queuing to use a machine
- Multiple files can be transmitted to multiple recipients at once, leading to faster processes
- There are no physical units that require maintenance, therefore, there is no associated downtime
- Large files can be uploaded and transmitted quickly, without having to submit page after page into a fax machine
- Because all files are digital, there is no wastage on paper or ink, which keeps costs down
- Files are compressed and sent immediately to recipients, reducing how long it takes to transmit a file by a significant amount of time
- Staff can send fax from any location, as the software is available on smart devices, removing problems with accessibility and remote work.
Online cloud faxing is an evolution of current faxing processes. It allows you to maintain essential fax practices while, at the same time, removing inefficient practices that are impacting your healthcare organisation’s performance.
Scheduling meetings, training sessions and other events or occasions within your healthcare organisation may be of critical importance for operational processes. From arranging client discussions to internal meetings, effective management of your business or practices’ schedule could be the difference between efficient and effective exchanges of information, and confused communication.
Current practices may include:
- Setting up meetings over the phone, email or text
- Letting your staff know about training through word of mouth or notes
- Arranging events using physical sign-up sheets
With these sorts of processes, information can be lost and difficult to refer back to, become outdated as plans change, or get lost in translation. The results, as you have likely experienced, are missed meetings or misunderstandings about what is actually going on.
With cloud-based online scheduling, things are different.
Solutions like Calendly and Google Calendar allow your healthcare organisation to transform the way scheduling is managed. How?
- You can send invitations out to email addresses and other contact details, ensuring attendees receive the necessary details
- You can allow attendees to access information about times, dates and event information online
- You can actively update schedules and send alerts to attendees about changes
- You can have staff, clients or customers create and schedule their own events.