By Dexter Duncan
There are a variety of issues in the health sector. This article goes through three real issues that are solved with some foresight of planning and technology. We see the key issues as field staff productivity, competition introduced by legislation and rising compliance/QA costs.
1. Field staff productivity
Many, many IT projects have “failed” due to lack of staff acceptance/use, thereby delivering an expensive white elephant. A critical aspect in making field staff productive is designing a simple and easy to use” mobile app” which makes the QA managers’ job easy. The screen design should use intuitive icons which make the “Luddites” in the field happy. The real issue is productivity and retention. Field staff would rather spend the time helping their clients and hate working with a mountain of paperwork or complex systems.
The aim should be to work on multiple mobile devices (smart phones, tablets, etc.) Although it takes more time to get it right, staff that are happy to input data into the system bring the desired productivity. And as long as your competition has a white elephant or is paper based, your reputation improve staff retention.
For a look at how to avoid software white elephants: Avoiding the White Elephant in Software projects
For more information on field staff productivity, refer to How to Achieve Productivity for your Mobile Work Force
2. Competition for clients/staff driven by changing government policies, e.g. NDIS, DVA
With individualised funding, the biggest structural change from NDIS is the shift from having two clients (e.g. Federal and State governments) to 1000’s of clients. One of the aims of the legislation is to introduce choice and push for a big dollop of competition to enable/ improve services and increase productivity. Despite the obvious wrinkles in achieving this in short term*, this is a good strategy for the long term benefit for the disabled members of our society.
The way NDIS is being rolled out, the competitive element is first manifesting itself with “new” clients as “existing” clients keep their bulk funding and are accessed after “new” client intake period is finished. EVERYONE must be ready for “self managed services”. And although a form of “self managed services” has been underway prior to NDIS, there are a number of impacts to internal systems. At a minimum, this means changes to sales, marketing and business development functions and service approaches to include more aspirational based delivery and tracking. It also means tweaking the billing, tracking, reporting, compliance and quality functions around multiple clients.
The second manifestation of competition is keeping/hiring staff. PWC reckons the demand for staff will double by 2018. Therefore, we need to import, train and/or retain staff for longer periods. PWC (Price Waterhouse Coopers) mentions demand for staff explicitly in their NDIS report as a challenge becoming more acute over the next few years. Automating an on-boarding process for staff addresses only part of the problem. With the combination of competition for clients and staff, service providers are moving into a new unknown territory with multiple “goal posts” changing based on legislation. Other than maintaining focus on clients and introducing goal reporting, good management and a flexible system is needed to adapt to change. The importance of flexibility in your systems cannot be overstated. Static based systems or expensive custom based systems will make it difficult and expensive to adapt to outcomes from the NDIS trials. Your system must be able to report on quality and measureable outcomes in addition to unknown changes associated with the yet to be released provider portal.
See The Third Outcome of NDIS you Probably didn’t know for real projections on jobs demand expected.
3. Rising Compliance/Quality Control costs – The reporting aspect of NDIS with focus on goal centric funding to individuals is a central change. For starters, the service provider does not get paid until service is delivered. A reporting system that tracks progress towards goals is needed, but also a rigorous Quality Control process is mandatory. Any incidents must be managed and continous improvement must be shown. If systems are not in-place to manage the multitude of compliance and quality control areas, your costs will escalate.
Example of Incident Management tracking system using Microsoft Dynamics CRM: Regardless of the issues you are facing as a non-profit provider of services, you are likely to need to address field staff productivity, staff and client retention and contain compliance and Quality Control costs.
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*Note: Although one of the aims of legislation is to introduce choice and push for competition, we observe a couple of wrinkles in the short term: 1. The disability demographic is broadly conservative and loyal. They are not likely to change their service providers unless they feel they are not getting what they need. 2. The big hope from legislation is to get the private (for profit) organisations to compete for services. Although this may be possible for a few specialty high price services, the private sector operates with much higher costs and is unlikely to compete on price.