Considerations when buying new home care technology

Guest blog by Unique IQ. Unique IQ is an award-winning creator of innovative software solutions that help home care agencies deliver better care.

Investing in new technology for your homecare organisation is a big decision. Software projects can be notorious for over-running, costing more than planned, causing problems for their users and failing to live up to expectations.

But by taking the time to investigate the right supplier before you embark on a new project, you can reduce risk and reap real dividends, ultimately finding both a product and a provider that’s a good match for your organisation.

Here are some key questions to ask yourself when considering new homecare technology.

1. What is the reason behind wanting this new software?

There are typically two scenarios that trigger a decision to purchase new technology.

The first, is the desire to improve a process which you think a piece of software could achieve. You might be doing things quite manually – relying on paper notes, Outlook calendars or lots of Excel spreadsheets. Alternatively, your organisation might have experienced recent growth, or be seeing an increasing need or demand that you need a new process to address. Or this situation might have arisen from a CQC inspection, an incident, or a pattern of occurrences that you want to address. Put simply, you feel that new technology could help your homecare organisation do more, better.

In the second scenario, a business may have a piece of software already, but it is not really doing the job anymore. This might be the result of increasing demands on your homecare agency (like in the example above), or perhaps the people using it have simply fallen out of love with the current system. Maybe the service from your software supplier has not been as good lately, or the system has not been upgraded for a while. Perhaps it is just no longer fit for purpose.

Whatever the reasons, understanding why you are in the market for a new solution will help you to identify exactly what it is you are looking for, and articulate that to the technology providers you are talking to, so that they can better advise on the right solution for you.

2. What do you want this software to achieve?

Take the time to stop and imagine: what would the future look like for your business if you had this new piece of technology? Will it enable you to deliver better care to more clients? Will it free up time spent monitoring staff, delivery and performance? Will you be able to report more quickly and easily to decision makers or the CQC?

Think about the day-to-day problems this software could solve for you, but also the bigger picture. Would investing in new kit ultimately help you grow your home care business, because it saves time, increases efficiency, or gives you a better picture of what’s going on so you can respond in a targeted way?

Most software providers will want to know what you are trying to achieve so that they can come up with a solution that is a good fit for you – or step away gracefully if they are not a good match.

3. Will it be compatible with other systems?

Software rarely exists in isolation. It needs to work with other systems in your organisation, be that other pieces of software or the processes and procedures you already have established for how you operate. Identify all the places where your new piece of technology might have an impact, however small that might seem. This will help you identify what you need to do ready for rolling it out, to avoid hitting any unforeseen obstacles further down the line.

You will also be able to give your chosen software provider a clear picture of the infrastructure their technology will operate in, so that they can identify any additional development that may be needed, to ensure it properly integrates with your other systems.

4. Who else is using this software?

Take a look at who else is using the software provider you are considering. Do they work with lots of other similar homecare agencies, meaning they have a good understanding of the issues and nuances of an organisation like yours? Can you speak to any of their existing customers to understand how they have found the experience of working with this provider?

Seeing a demonstration of a new piece of technology is a great place to start the decision-making process. But hearing about how it works in practice from other similar organisations that use it can be invaluable additional information.

5. Are you getting the technical details you need?

Can the software company you are talking to answer (and do they want to answer) the questions you have about their technology? There will be a huge amount of technical detail you will want to know. How is data stored? What protocols do they use to keep data secure? How many people can use the system at once? What will happen from the moment you agree to buy to when you are finally using the new software? Can they have a system ready for you in your timescales? The list goes on.

A lack of detail in the answers, or an evasion of answering the question fully, can be a potential red flag. Look for companies that are clear about the capabilities and limitations of their solution, and upfront and honest about any extra development they might need to undertake to make it work for you, and what that will cost.

6. Are they making it easy for you?

The technology you are looking at might be the whizziest thing you have ever seen. But is the company providing it helping you to integrate it into your homecare organisation? Are they taking the time to fully understand how this software will fit into your business and what you want it to achieve? If they do, there is a much better chance it will be a good fit for you – and you will get a final product that achieves what you set out to do in the first place.

When you have reached the stage where you have a preferred software provider in mind, can you pilot the product first? Is there an opportunity to iron out any teething problems and tweak to get the best fit, before extending the new system to the rest of the business?

Then there is the after-sales. Is the software you are looking at supported after you have started using it, or will you just get a box with a patchy instruction manual. Is there a development pipeline in place which you will automatically become a part of? Will the software firm you are talking to still be there to help you 6 months, 18 months or 5 years down the line?

7. Finally, do you like them?

In most instances, the system you choose now will be something you stick with for several years. That means that you are going to have to work with the people at your chosen software provider for a long time. So undoubtedly, check they have all the right credentials and a sound software solution. But also consider whether you think you can get along with them long term. After all, that is the foundation of a great long-term partnership.

Unique IQ is an award-winning creator of innovative software solutions that help home care agencies deliver better care.