Volume 7 Issue 7, March 31, 2020
The time has come when we are all being forced to embrace technology, whether we like it or not. Before the coronavirus pandemic, some businesses implemented extensive information technology (IT) solutions to support their operations while others resisted. In these unprecedented times, we will need to not only embrace technology, but rely on it.
In the interest of full disclosure, let me clearly state the following: I am no IT expert. However, I have experience with a variety of different IT platforms, either on the business owner/operations side or as a customer, and have seen the tremendous value of IT.
Here are eight technologies that most businesses can implement (if they haven't already) and ideas on how to leverage them.
At VERTESS, our team is spread throughout the country, but we enjoy our camaraderie. We have always held weekly virtual meetings using video conferencing software. We all turn our cameras on and update one another on professional developments and significant life events. This has helped us to feel like part of a team, even though we are many miles apart and working very independently.
Many business teams will need to take a similar approach with the protocols concerning social distancing/work from home now in place throughout the country. Video conference platforms enable groups to either video conference or hold a voice-only conference call. Many of us shy away from video, but after a lively conversation, you will find that seeing the speaker(s) in real time adds to the connectivity of the group.
One of the companies that I represent is nearing completion of its sale to buyers. There are two locations included in the acquisition that were not yet toured by the buyers, but they were hoping to do so before signing off on the purchase. Considering the health concerns of the residents of these homes and the overall importance of precautions during the pandemic, we decided virtual tours might be the best approach to satisfy the buyers' request.
This process doesn't need to be complicated as nearly all of us now have smartphones with cameras. I suggested interactive, virtual walkthroughs where the buyer could make requests, such as "please open this door" or "let's look inside those cabinets," and the tour guide would respond appropriately, showing the areas through a video calling service.
Video chatting via cellphone is also an easy way to connect people who are isolated. There are seniors in long-term care facilities, individuals receiving services in the community, or people in substance use disorder (SUD) treatment who can greatly benefit from a video check-in.
Sharing documents with fellow team members is essential to keeping business moving forward, whether you're in an office or working remotely. At VERTESS, we leverage a central electronic location where team members can access frequently used documents and share new documents with one another. This not only acts as a time saver, since we all know where to find documents and do not need to request them from each another, but also ensures that the current and appropriate version of a document is accessed. Such a location also helps ensure that documents are safely managed and better protected from inappropriate access and distribution.
Similarly, a contact management platform can help an organization stay abreast of the most recent contact information for clients and industry colleagues. By providing a single location for all staff to access, a more efficient system is created, and redundancies are often eliminated.
Tracking signatures tends to be time-consuming and daunting. Trying to obtain signatures when working remotely can add another layer of complexity. There is no guarantee that someone has the technology to print a form, scan it, and send it back.
At VERTESS, we use an e-signature service to help ensure our documents are signed by all required parties and collected. This technology can reduce the number of steps required to gather signatures and help make for a smoother process with fewer errors.
Note: It is important to ensure that the industry you work in will accept digital signatures on the documentation required for your business.
As I attend more intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD), mental health, and SUD conferences and summits, I am learning about the impressive platforms out there to help staff, case managers, and clinicians track their work and document for billing purposes. By using a paperless system, there is less opportunity for error and missed requirements. This is thanks, in part, to real-time notations and data. By using platforms that incorporate an electronic health record with data tracking, the central repository of client files, consumer records, and health files, records become paperless and easier to access from anywhere. This is even more important if residential changes (i.e., individuals receiving supports change homes/locations) are made or caseloads shift.
When I owned a business that was constantly in need of qualified direct support professionals, it was a struggle to train new employees while also ensuring that current employees maintained their training requirements and had the resources to help them in their roles. We used an online training platform that not only provided many of the required trainings for our industry but permitted us to record or upload trainings of our own. This platform allowed us provide resources as well as track completion of training and the expiration dates of required annual staff training to ensure we maintained compliance. We also used this technology for "snow day" trainings when day programs were closed. Staff used their time at home to stay current with training requirements.
The durable medical equipment community is moving to a model that combines online consultation with home delivery of equipment and supplies. Although there is concern that this could result in an increase in patient error and cost, it may be the most effective way of getting people the products they need in the safest manner possible. Small companies will need to prepare to compete with large retailers like big pharmacies, e-commerce, or larger online vendors by accentuating their personal approach, even if conducted remotely.
The Apple slogan "There's an app for that" is a true statement. I recently learned that there is an app for my phone that will take a picture of a document and create a PDF that can be sent as though I scanned it. At VERTESS, we use an instant messaging program to communicate with each other. I have that app downloaded on all of my devices. This will ensure that if I am not at my desk, I will still receive messages from my team. I have also learned that there are SUD apps that help those in recovery track their daily progress and stay connected with their therapist between sessions. This might be the time to find that app(s) that helps address your communication needs.
As we work to overcome the hurdles of social distancing in our clinical and operational lives, we will be learning much more about the use of technology, including telehealth. There are still grey areas concerning what areas of healthcare can take advantage of these digital information and communication technologies and how to ensure they are HIPAA compliant and used appropriately for the needed services. We will need to be creative in how we leverage these and other solutions in the effort to support clinicians, therapists, direct care workers, and case managers as they work to determine how best to use technology to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of those receiving services.
For now, we can use some of the tricks and tools we know to help create a smoother and more efficient work-from-home environment for all of our teams.
As Co-Founder of LifeShare, a multi-state human services and healthcare organization, Rachel has a unique background of over 20 years of successful operational and executive experience, in addition to an MBA in Healthcare Management. She began her professional life as a home care provider, an experience that created the foundation for the innovative quality and success of LifeShare, while also changing her life. At LifeShare, she managed their Operations (Adult Day/Residential; Child Therapeutic Foster Care; HCBS; Child Therapeutic Day/Diversion Services, and Educational Programming), Finance, HR and Quality Assurance (facilitating COA accreditation and policy/procedure implementation). After selling LifeShare to Centene, Rachel remained during the transition of management and helped to provide outcome measurements and COA compliance reporting. At VERTESS she is a Managing Director providing M+A advisor and consultant services, specifically in the I/DD, behavioral health and related healthcare markets, where systems are rapidly evolving, and providers are striving to adapt strategically to diverse challenges.