Going digital – how to eliminate paper from your business

Last updated on 12 January 2023

Taking the steps to modernise your database and operating systems will help you deliver high-quality care and meet compliance requirements. [Source: Unsplash}

The aged care sector is experiencing a major shift to a modernisation of systems with providers embracing technology and taking advantage of digital management approaches. 

But roughly 40% of the aged care landscape still uses paper records in some shape or form, whether it’s an entirely paper-based system or a mixture of paper and digital.

Yet as the Government pushes for digital transformation and compliance requirements increase, it’s hard to not digitise records and ensure that compliance is met. 

Whilst going digital in your business may seem daunting to begin with, there are many benefits to eliminating paper and streamlining the collection and storage of critical information.

Moving to digital records creates an efficient record-keeping process; you’re no longer storing large amounts of paperwork, it’s far easier to search up records in a streamlined database and you can often automate time-consuming processes.

It also provides cohesive data collection and clearly displays relevant information for rostering, scheduling, invoicing, staff management and resident care.

“One of the most common pain points for providers is the ever-increasing reporting requirements, whether it be auditing, Quarterly Financial Reports (QFR), or even the introduction of the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) for home care,” said Jelle Kroon, Head of Customer Operations at Turnpoint Software.

“The amount of data that needs to be completed and shown is rising.

“The online platform becomes an organisation’s one source of truth and can be especially useful come audit time.”

There is a flow-on effect from digital record keeping that benefits residents – nurses have more time to dedicate to residents which is an important and beneficial boost to meet mandated daily care minutes. 

Humanetix Chief Customer Officer, Mitch McBeath, said aged care organisations that use digital systems have reported a 20% increase in time-saving during day-to-day tasks. 

“A facility that might have 200-300 residents, just imagine if that paperwork is all in drawers and you have shift handovers, multiple people working with a resident or client – how are you meant to find that information in a timely manner every single time?” said Mr McBeath.

On top of that, there is the risk of inefficiency and under-delivery of the duty of care when relevant resident information is not collected or recorded correctly.

Embracing change

When adopting a new way of working, providers and staff may be afraid of the unknown. It can be a big jump to new processes and apprehension is understandable when you’re used to working in a certain way or are unfamiliar with newer technologies.

A successful transition occurs when key stakeholders and management are on board to buy-in and embrace paperless operation. They need to be open to change and ready to lead and instruct other staff once the new processes are implemented.

“Some people fear change, especially when it comes to altering ingrained work patterns and systems,” said Mr Kroon.

“Moving systems and ways of working to online platforms can be one of the hardest things for teams to do, particularly for employees who are not as technologically savvy as others. 

“Being clear and upfront on the reason for the change is critical while providing a clear roadmap on the implementation plan will help ease concerns and calm nerves.”

As there are various systems catering for the management of finances, rostering, medicine and direct care plans, explore your options before implementing a system that will be a long term investment.

“When you transition from a paper-based system to a digital one, it’s just the starting point,” said Mr McBeath.

“You have an intelligent system and once you make the step, more information on residents is recorded every time you interact, and you get the upside.”

In addition, you could utilise an internal team of web developers to create and manage processes and systems that will help you collect, store and share relevant data. While this process requires additional resources and time, it delivers a hands-on approach where you have direct control.

What’s involved in the process?

Preparation is essential when eliminating paper and you need to identify what aspects of your business currently use paper and where that information is stored; it could all be on paper or some may be spread across a number of databases and management systems.

As you think through what information needs to be digitised, ask yourself:

  • Where is the information currently stored?
  • How is it stored, and how could it be digitised (e.g. scanned or typed into a database)
  • Who can, and needs to, access the information once it’s uploaded?
  • How could paper-based processes be automated and simplified?
  • How often does the information need to be accessed?
  • Who will it benefit during daily operations?
  • How will this impact ongoing operations?
  • How will staff be supported and trained during the changeover?
  • Who needs to be notified and included in the process?

The answers to these questions can help determine whether you want to place more of the workload on an external provider or take charge of the digital transformation process yourself. Whatever the choice, Mr Kroon said experience and familiarity with the software are essential.

“Going from paper to digital is like fixing a plane whilst flying, your business doesn’t just stop, you have to import all your data whilst teaching your staff how to use it to keep the data up to date,” said Mr Kroon.

“The way to a successful implementation is to ensure all staff have adequate training.”

Setting up a new system in-house requires some additional work but it does mean you are familiar with it in its entirety and have greater control over its design, layout and integration with existing systems or processes. 

You can also address any ongoing concerns and identify paper-based tasks that are no longer necessary with an online system.

Depending on the size of your business and the current status of paperwork, certain methods of uploading information might be better suited, such as physically scanning documents, manual upload, bulk upload (entering information into spreadsheets) or using online scraping tools to move data from multiple platforms into a centralised one.

If you are going with an external provider, they will likely take the lead with the information upload, and you will work together to have the data ordered and ready. 

“A lot of aged care providers don’t realise it can be done in a time efficient way, it’s not a major transformational change that a lot of providers may be scared of,” said Mr McBeath.

Expect the move from paper to digital to take anywhere between two weeks to three months, depending on the size and complexity of your records and the experience of the staff leading the transition. 

Once a program has been launched and implemented you should also conduct follow-up audits and assessments to make sure it is operating correctly and staff are confidently using the system.

Should you worry about security?

Once your information is online, it will generally be stored in a cloud-based system – data and resources are stored remotely and accessed via the internet. 

In light of recent cyber security concerns with organisations like Optus and Medibank, you might hold your own concerns about the safety of resident and staff information.

Mr Kroon said that online systems are designed to be safe and secure but there are always cybersecurity risks.

“As we have seen, no system can make guarantees,” said Mr Kroon.

“We believe that the issue of security is about how software providers aim to mitigate the risk as much as possible and communicate concerns and issues clearly with their clients in a timely manner.”

You should speak to any software provider about their security measures before choosing them for your business so you have the reassurance that your data is going to be properly protected

And if you manage your own programs and documents with an internal IT department, ensure you have appropriate safeguards in place. 

This includes operating on secure networks, introducing multi-factor authentication and passphrases, monitoring all equipment and devices used to access critical systems, and even investing in cyber insurance for additional protection in case something does go wrong.

The time for digital transformation is now

The Government views digital transformation as the way forward for the aged care industry. It wants to see new initiatives and solutions that can drive aged care reform, as explained in a series of webinars last year.

But the onus is on providers to make those changes and there is no better time than now to begin. By identifying the areas where paper-based records can be eliminated and manual processes automated, you are simplifying procedures and saving time for staff. 

Taking the necessary steps to modernise your database and operating systems will help you deliver high-quality care and meet important compliance requirements. 

Have you recently moved from paper-based to digital records? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

aged care
home care
record keeping