Aged care quality standards: How to improve communication during constant change
The aged care industry is under intense pressure: a Royal Commission, new aged care quality standards, and sky-high workforce challenges, including staff ratios, recruitment and retention.
We are hearing many more stories from consumers, families and staff, both good and bad. The industry is finding its voice and looking for new ways to put consumers at the centre of care.
While there are many complex issues at play, we are going to focus on just one: communication.
Communication in embedded in the new standards
An industry in so much change, under so much pressure, cannot afford to overlook how it gathers feedback and communicates with its stakeholders.
Communication is a key element of the 2019 aged care quality standards.
- Standard 5 recognises the need for a welcoming service environment where confusion is minimised and consumers are encouraged to participate in their community.
- Standard 6 calls for consumers and families to feel supported in providing feedback and complaints.
- Standard 7 mentions adopting innovative ways of working that are tailored to consumers.
There are many more examples, but every standard will drive up the amount of information providers need to deliver to staff, consumers and families on an ongoing basis.
Providers must also ensure that feedback mechanisms are continuous so that issues are detected and managed as they arise – and not surface at audit time.
Is it time to turn to digital?
Having seen how many other organisations, including health providers, retailers and corporates, handle their communication challenges, I believe the industry has much to gain from introducing digital media into the aged care service environment.
Let’s start with feedback.
The industry needs faster, more instant feedback mechanisms from the frontline of their facilities. This includes the obvious: feedback and complaints from consumers and families – but also for keeping a pulse on staff sentiment, trends and local issues.
Digital feedback kiosks located in public areas and behind the scenes in staff rooms are an easy and quick way to keep the feedback flowing. They could be changed to capture different feedback at different times of day – such as feedback just after mealtimes, or after activities. In staff rooms, they provide a much-needed direct link to management – again, to surface issues internally before they become headline news. Digital also makes it easy to accommodate special needs such as multiple languages or accessibility requirements.
When it comes to all the ongoing updates that providers need to make: everything from the daily menu and activities, to clinical care updates for staff, to safety reminders, to information about the quality standards themselves – it’s becoming too much for old school communication channels like noticeboards and letters. Even email is challenging – staff are so mobile and dispersed that email isn’t likely to catch them.
Alternatively, a network of digital media in the aged care environment mean that both head office and the local facility can make instant updates (using a platform that negates the need for memory sticks to change content). The digital medium allows messages to be much more engaging than print media: think video, animation, and high-impact images.
Any solution should also provide statistics that can be used for compliance reporting. This would include trend data for feedback, but also the frequency of messages shown to different audiences.
In summary, there are few industries staring down the barrel of more change than aged care. Change by its very nature drives up the need to communicate – isn’t it time to ask how we can communicate better?