This month, our Marketing Manager Renata Reis spoke with Emily Wilson, ionMy’s Technical Project Manager. With over 10 years of industry-specific experience, Emily brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to our team. She is a visionary who has the ability to think out of the box when solutions are difficult to identify.
At the interview, Emily shared some useful insights around technology usage in the care sector, including issues around big data, systems integration, as well as tips for professionals considering joining the care industry workforce.
Renata: Hi Emily, how are you? Hope you are doing well. If we could start the interview by talking about your journey through the care industry, which you have been a part of for over 10 years. Emily, what led you to start working in the care sector, and what are some of the main positives of working in this industry?
Emily: I joined the care industry in 2010, working for Australian Unity. My initial role was working as a technology business analyst, supporting the Head of Technology & Projects.
When I initially joined the care industry, it wasn’t so much an intention for me. I came from working at an ISP (internet service provider). My role at Australian Unity meant that I was able to visit different locations and residences and started to meet some of the staff, talk to them about their technology issues, and actually see what it’s really like on the floor and I really took to that. I could hear what they had to say and then be a voice for them back in the corporate area in the head office and advocating for them.
So that’s what made me really get engaged in the industry. Particularly around 2010, as in the aged care industry, they were very behind with technology back then. There were a lot of technologies available, but if you compared Aged Care to Primary Health Care, Hospitals, there was a very big difference about what was actually introduced in the industry. Now there’s a lot of opportunities and obviously a very big change for a lot of people in the industry.
What really got me interested in the industry I guess is the people. To know that I’m actually having an impact in people’s lives, gave me that reward to feel like I’m actually contributing to something really powerful.
After those years of experience working for a provider, that’s what interested me in joining ionMy, so I could use that real-life experience in having to own systems, support people, run projects and be able to address things differently with clients and really appreciate what they’re going through or think about things holistically and be able to give them better advice throughout implementations.
Renata: Because you’ve been on the other side and you know what their needs are, what the challenges are, and especially when it comes to people in the front line, what some of the struggles are. As you said before, you were an advocate for people working on the floor.
Emily: And just being that conduit between business representatives and technical representatives, even if that is with the client helping them to find a common language and make them clear about requirements. And make sure it’s, you know, in plain English, so they are actually both understanding of each other’s side.
Renata: You have been working in the care sector for a number of years. If you could tell us about your experience in the industry and, along with this, what are some of the surprises and the challenges you have encountered?
Emily: A common issue that I see in the industry is in terms of what data is held and how that data can be used.
So for example, you might have a system for your staff records, a system for payroll, a system for client records, a system for clinical, a GRC system, and each of those may have been implemented independently without consideration towards the others.
And then, when you start to look at something like integration for ionMy as GRC, you might want to have staff data coming in and client data coming in. But when you then introduce integration and systems, having one system being a source system and feeding into the other one, the integrity and the quality of that data becomes so important to an organisation.
Over the years, one thing that I’ve made an observation on is that aged care providers have always had a lot of data. But perhaps they’ve not known how to use and understand the power of that data.
For example, an organisation might be creating a staff record in four different systems manually across their business, so the efficiencies to be gained and the quality that can be gained is great.
Renata: When you actually manage to have it all working together and not duplicating work, it can bring so much value.
Emily: Absolutely, and obviously I am quite passionate about integration (laugh)
I think it’s quite a unique skill too, that you’ve got people that understand the system, people that understand the technology, but how to interpret data purposefully is a very different thing.
Perhaps because of the experience I had at Australian Unity where I was part of a program of work, to transition Homecare NSW following the acquisition. I had to work with data from their rostering system into their award interpretation system into their payroll system. This was across over 5,000 home care workers, who can have maybe 5 to 10 shifts a day, so big data, really important big data.
Working through that process has given me the experience and the skills to then be able to use those concepts across integration with other systems.
Renata: Over those years working in the sector, what have been the main changes that you have witnessed in the industry?
Emily: One change that I’ve seen is that previously, a lot of companies wanted to have software solutions or technology customised to be specific to their organisation.
Whereas that has changed in more recent times. Companies are wanting to go with a more standard implementation of software. They are more understanding now that if a vendor has built a system, for example like ionMy, the way it is set up is going to be best practice, so why would we need to do it differently? Because we are part of a sector that all follows the same standards.
A big issue with the previous kind of trends that we saw when companies wanted to have things very customised to their business as opposed to aligning their business and changing processes and culture, is that having a customised solution is not sustainable.
You could have one or two people in an organisation, they might be system administrators and responsible for knowing how it works, changing it, supporting it. That creates key person dependencies and if these people move on, have competing priorities, or even just someone being on leave, this creates a risk that could have been mitigated.
Renata: So do you see the industry like professionals are getting a bit more educated and then trusting vendors and trusting software providers that whatever they have in place is best practice? Or they are more open to changing their own internal culture and processes?
Emily: I think it’s a bit of both, and maybe just understanding, for example in terms of the way that governance over this sector has changed. Now the common theme seems to be realising that they’re part of a wider group that all need to do the same thing.
Of course, they’ve got points of difference in the services or strengths, but they’re all trying to say or, achieve predominantly the same outcome which is remaining compliant and delivering high-quality care.
Renata: What does a day in the life of Emily, as ionMy’s Technical Project Manager, looks like?
Emily: Busy (laughs). Lots of meetings, internal meetings, client meetings. I look after the development and technical team. It’s very busy for sure, especially now that there is a greater demand by the industry for a solution like ionMy, so we have new clients and some big projects happening. A day in my life has plenty of technical discussions, coordinating resources, monitoring progress, and my fair share of coffee.
Renata: In your opinion, Emily, what’s the most significant obstacle to technology adoption in the care industry?
Emily: I think it ties into that whole data and understanding the different systems and the kind of data they have in their organisation.
One example is in relation to the frontline carers, and the different systems they need to access, the different experiences and they have to keep on top of them. With the way their workdays are scheduled, their window of time to be able to capture that evidence and the records required is quite limited.
Another obstacle is all about the key decision-makers having the information they need to make informed decisions, which they are obviously quite reliant on another layer of people to get them that information.
So, having accurate data at their fingertips is really important. I see a lot of clients or companies talking more about looking at business intelligence tools in the industry these days.
Particularly trying to report information across their systems to find trends in the business. An example of this would be, looking at ionMy to see how many incidents were raised in a given period of time and perhaps looking at their rostering system to see what staff had worked so they can then use that information to then identify trends and be able to address issues instead of looking at data in isolation.
Renata: Do you have a positive story of how technology contributes to the clients that you work with that you could share with us?
Emily: I guess the biggest impact we see is when an organisation goes from using non-structured data, so paper-based, excel, or whatever other documents they use into a structured system that’s purpose-built.
For example, your incidents or your complaints are all captured in the same location, a backed-up location, and that’s also then instantly visible to anyone in the organisation as soon as it’s captured. Whereas if all you had was unstructured data, it means that you’re relying on a staff member y or z to consolidate and report on a periodic basis.
The other thing too, that makes a really big impact, is the ability to link records in ionMy back to the standards that they’re related to. So you can have someone capturing that at the time the record is being processed, and then have the ability to see at the higher level if you look up ‘Standard X’ you can see records relating to that straight away.
The speed of information being accessible to that layer is probably one of the biggest benefits of ionMy.
Another one is the alerting function in ionMy. The system can be set up for organisations to alert the right people at the right time about the records that are created.
A good example is feedback. Companies have a timeline to act once complaints are received, they acknowledge it within one business day, and they need to resolve it within five business days.
If you think about that with a large care provider, for example, if they got feedback from one of their many thousands of clients, they then need to identify who that person is and allocate it to the right person within their organisation to address, and that takes time.
So that process itself would probably consume your first day. Whereas ionMy has a pretty powerful alert engine in the background that would then, based on what type of complaint we’ve captured, then know whom to inform so that they can get alerted straight away, and that takes them to that record. So they can act within the time frame.
Renata: ionMy has a wide range of capabilities and features that support care providers when it comes to their governance, risk and compliance needs. You just described some awesome functions. Are there other features/ functionality that you love in particular?
Emily: There are quite a few. I would probably name risk ratings across records as one of my favourites. Depending on the way that we set up the modules, for example, feedback and complaints, depending on the type of complaint that’s made, based on the information filled out in the form there can be an automatic calculation of the risk or severity level that’s shown.
Based on that risk or severity level, that can then be visible in reporting or the registers, or even trigger off different types of alerts. For example, if the risk or severity is sitting at a higher/ extreme, we can choose to notify more senior staff of a particular record as opposed to other records, because they may not need to see the volume if it is not a high priority.
And can I have another one?
One of my other favourites is how we can create actions in ionMy. When a record is created anywhere in the system you can then create an action within that record, so you could allocate that to a specific person, and even add a follow-up date. This would then trigger a notification to go to that person. Which then, when the person receives that, they can even reply through their email system, and that response is captured in ionMy, in the record, so it creates that trail there.
So your response is actually listed inside of the ionMy record and then you’re capturing that evidence as well. One of the big issues in organisations is that they might communicate via email, but that does not really count as a record that can be accessed as evidence and then captured in the right place, as this is not highly visible. But if you’re someone that is a senior leader and you are mainly on your phone and you need to do that, ionMy allows for that.
Renata: In 2013, you received the Rising Star Award, at a time you were working at Australia Unity. In a time where the care industry is going through enormous challenges, and when it is especially important to attract new talents and professionals, I was wondering if you have any words of support or encouragement for those who are starting in the sector or are thinking of entering this area?
Emily: I think it’s important if you’re joining the industry is to gain an understanding of it.
Truly taking the time to listen and understand the challenges that different people within the industry face, whether its clients, colleagues, frontline staff, very senior leaders, just take the time to understand not just their perspective, but what they see happening to other people.
For example, if I was talking to a nurse about their day to day experience and trying to achieve a technical task, I wouldn’t be just asking them about their experience, but also what the impact might be on the client they’re trying to care for.
One other aspect that I personally have found in my experience, is that EQ gets you further than IQ in this industry. And I don’t know how to say that nicely.
You have to have emotional intelligence because what we’re doing in this industry has a direct correlation to people’s lives at a time they should be really enjoying their life. So the industry takes the responsibility for caring for these people. There’s so much passion and emotion that sits around everything we do.
Especially in the last couple of years. A number of implementations we’ve done have been really stretched by COVID because the same people that are looking to implement a GRC have a huge responsibility around making sure the workforce is safe, the client base is safe and making sure you’re sticking to regulations.
And one last piece of wisdom from my experience: I think it is very important for leaders in the industry to understand that sometimes when things seem to be working well in your organisation, processes seem to be effective or successful, it’s important to remember that behind those processes or those outcomes, there may not just be systems and processes, but also people.
There could be very extreme things happening from a people perspective to be able to achieve those outcomes.
And because you’re consistently getting the outcome that you’re seeking on time to the quality of the right business outcome, you don’t always necessarily have the knowledge about what’s being done to be able to meet that and what the risk is of how that’s done.
So that might be a risk. It might be a key person dependency, that’s a critical issue. And that’s where technology can bridge many gaps, reduce risks, create efficiencies and create a better working environment for teams.