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One of the very common things I hear when talking to those involved in the health and social care sector is that it is people’s experience of interaction with the system that has led them to get involved themselves. Whether that is a carer who provided support to their grandparent, the owner of a care home who saw a parent in receipt of a poor service, or the registered manager who started as a carer and wanted to progress in their care career. Whatever the role, all are primarily motivated by the desire to deliver good quality care to those for whom they provide a service.

No organisation can achieve high quality care without this motivation or without the dedicated teams who share their passion. Nor is the sector very different to others in that businesses are usually started by someone who is driven by their passion to deliver a service or product in which they believe wholeheartedly.

In common with many new businesses, those in the care sector usually start small, with that one person undertaking tasks related to HR, finance, regulatory compliance and generating new business. As the business grows, this becomes increasingly difficult to sustain and there is the need to employ others to undertake specific business tasks. Those who fail to understand this are likely to see their business fail and even those who do recognise the need, often struggle with making the transition from start-up to growth.

Business advice and support
The Empiric Partners (EP) Better Business, Better Care offer is designed to bring together a deep knowledge of the health and social care sector with experience and expertise in the management of business. The passion for high quality services delivered to vulnerable people is shared by the partners and motivated the development of the offer.

Experience has taught us that business success happens when decisions are driven by a clear vision and strategy with a business plan that identifies the actions necessary to achieve the objectives. It isn’t enough for the director(s) to know the vision, it needs to be communicated to and owned by everyone from the finance director to the chef and the clinical lead to the domestic team.

While I have talked so far about those things that most businesses have in common, EP also recognise that every business is unique and our work always starts with getting to know what’s important to the company we are working with and what the specific issues are that need to be addressed. Only once we have this information will we put together a proposal to support the business.

Our solutions are based on the wide range of expertise among the partners including strategy development, business planning, finance and performance management, operations, quality assurance and change management.

Support with technology
In addition to these general business management skills EP bring specific expertise on selection, adoption and optimisation of technology to support the provision of care as well as GDPR compliance, cyber security and data exploitation.

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technology in a way that no-one could have imagined before it happened. There are some real benefits to this in time-saving, travel reduction and the increased sharing of data across health and social care systems. A good example is the sharing of data with primary care to facilitate more targeted support from GPs and other primary care professionals. Nonetheless, all the evidence highlights that in the absence of new ways of working, the benefits of technology deployment will not be fully realised. Levels of digital literacy vary considerably across the health and social care sector.

While many of the solutions on the market are designed for ease of use, it is only when the workforce has a good understanding of the purpose of the tool, how it can improve the delivery of good quality care and what managers will do with the data collected that the full benefits will be delivered. Even the most user-friendly solutions require good training. Don’t believe any sales team who tell you that their solution is so intuitive that training isn’t needed. EP’s team have experience of procuring care technology as well as supporting providers who have already adopted a solution to realise its benefits.

Cyber-security and data protection
When it comes to cyber-security, few weeks pass when there isn’t a story about an organisation falling victim to cyber-attack. The data that health and social care organisations collect and increasingly share between them, is highly sensitive and in the wrong hands can do considerable damage. It is vital, therefore, that those in receipt of services can be assured that data which is collected about them is held securely and that the risks to its integrity are well understood and managed.

This is recognised by the NHS and the requirement for providers with NHS mail accounts to complete the DSPT goes some way to addressing this. The deadline for health and social care organisations to be compliant with the National Data Opt Out scheme is September. As well as the NHS and local authorities, the requirement for compliance applies to providers of health and social care services. It gives the right to all individuals to opt out of their data being shared for any purpose other than the direct provision of health and care services. For example, organisations should not process data about those who have opted out for the purpose of planning services. Incorrect information has been posted on social media which may increase anxiety about the purposes of data sharing and for that reason, it is vital that recipients of health and social care are supported well to understand how their data will be used if we are not to see damaging limitations on the availability of data. EPs cyber-security specialist can provide advice and support to organisations that will enable them to assess data risks and take action to manage and mitigate those risks.

In conclusion, health and social care businesses operate in a highly complex legislative and regulatory environment. Most of those working in the sector are motivated by the desire to deliver quality care and it is all too easy for the day to day operational pressures (especially during the past year) to squeeze out the opportunities to stand back and reflect. Without such reflection, however, it is unlikely that the business will stay on course.

Working with a consultancy such as EP can take some of the heavy lifting out of the process and leave health and social care providers to focus on the delivery of the care which they exist to provide.