Opinion: Tips for proving the quality of your service

Aged care providers that don’t measure up will soon get left behind, writes George Lymbers, who offers the four key steps all facilities should be taking.

Aged care providers that don’t measure up will soon get left behind, writes George Lymbers, who offers the four key steps all facilities should be taking.

George Lymbers, Nexon
George Lymbers

All aged care facilities claim to provide a quality service – but few measure it. The last decade has seen a quantum shift in how aged care is perceived and situated.

The upshot is that the government has put consumer choice and control squarely on the agenda.

If you’re an aged care provider and you don’t pay attention to what this means for your business, you risk becoming irrelevant.

It’s not just the ageing population – the consumer is changing

We all know that people are living longer and more people than ever before are getting to an age where they need assistance to live well. This means an increase in demand. Baby Boomers are not as likely as their forebears to go quietly. They are much more aware of and vocal about their rights, either for themselves or for their own aged parents.

Change is here to stay but your customers may not be

Aged care is an area where various federal governments have anticipated cultural change and are – to an extent – leading the charge. With reforms such as Living Longer Living Better and consumer directed care (CDC) the consumer is in control of who provides their care, how it is delivered, what is included in their care plan and how their funds are spent.

One such shift is the expected introduction of portable care packages from February 2017. If a consumer doesn’t like a service provider, it will be much easier for them to change.

It will no longer be sufficient to simply claim high levels of care. You will need to be able to prove it. The market place is getting more competitive and with CDC, consumers will increasingly exercise a greater amount of choice. If you don’t measure up, you will get left out.

Key steps aged care facilities should be taking

1. Get specific about what quality of care looks like

Before you start measuring something you need to know what you are measuring. If you already have a set of qualitative standards in place now is the time to review them. They need to be a in a format that is clear, transparent and easy to record.

Ask your consumers and their families what quality of care means to them. Ask industry experts and health professionals. Gather what you learn and put it together with what you already know.

The key here is not just implicit values but explicit, measurable standards that can be recorded and monitored for every consumer.

2. Integrate measurement into your day to day operations

You don’t want to burden staff unnecessarily. But you do want to create a system that means you can capture data every day. What processes do you already have in place that you can add to or amend?

This is where enlisting the help of outside experts can help you. There are solutions available that can help aged care providers track and record relevant data. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel but you do need to make sure you have the systems and platforms in place to fully support the kind of data collection you want to achieve.

3. Know what your data collection goals are

Don’t measure for measurement’s sake. There are three key reasons data collection is vital:

  • to provide evidence and statistics for funding bodies, investors and donors
  • to show prospective consumers and families clear and compelling evidence as to why they should choose your facility
  • to monitor your own progress as an organisation and continuously improve

You may find other goals for your data collection. Starting with these as a base will help you define the kind of data you need to collect and segment the ways you do this. Thorough set up is fundamental to the success of data collection so you don’t waste time doubling up with how and what you are recording.

4. Review and use the data regularly

It’s not enough to record what you are doing. You must implement regular review processes so that what you learn can be implemented into your daily operations and long term business planning. This relates both to qualitative data (how satisfied consumers are) and quantitative data (how profitable your business is).

With change comes opportunity

Consumers having more control and more choice can feel like it increases pressure on aged care facilities, where you may already feel stretched in the service you provide. It is important to see this shift as an opportunity for positive change.

For the first time, you can actually track the quality of the care you are providing on the frontline – customer by customer, day by day.

The best way to manage it is to seek assistance. There are many ways in which you can implement measurement tools that will not be too taxing or expensive. These range from service provision to administrative processes and technology.

George Lymbers is industry lead and program director at Nexon Asia Pacific

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