he emergence of COVID-19 has brought about many unprecedented challenges to many industries, and its impact will only continue to last in the long run. However, given the older population’s increased vulnerability, the industry that is at the highest risk of the challenges of COVID-19 is the aged care industry.
From the Aged Care Royal Commission report, the biggest challenge of COVID-19 on the Australian aged care sector was in the first eight months of the pandemic. The main challenge for aged care residents and their loved ones is the inability to have face to face visits, which can affect both parties’ health and wellbeing needs.
As for aged care providers, they face the daunting challenge of ensuring smooth operations during COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 world.
However, even with so many challenges at hand, one aged care provider, St Vincent’s Care Services (SVCS), managed to navigate them and came out stronger. With an efficient visitor management system in place, SVCS has managed to maintain smooth operations and made residential aged care experience pleasant for residents and visitors.
Lets now understand the challenges of COVID-19 that SVCS faced and how they managed to navigate them!
Challenges of COVID-19 faced by SVCS
Before exploring how SVCS navigate the challenges of COVID-19, let’s look into the problems that they were facing during the pandemic. Some of these problems include:
- Everything was anecdotal
- Difficult to have a centralised report
- Operational pressure due to lack of resources
- Struggled to keep up with changing aged care restrictions.
Everything was anecdotal
Before COVID-19 struck, everything in St Vincent’s Care Services was done anecdotally.
With COVID-19, SVCS was faced with the arduous task of accurately capturing visitor numbers to understand visitor patterns for better resource allocation. Further, with more than ten different locations, each facility managed their own visiting processes differently, which made tracking visiting patterns more complicated.
Reporting was tough
As mentioned above, with everything anecdotal, it was difficult for SVCS to track the peak visiting hours, making it hard for them to ensure that there was no overcrowding in their facilities at all times. Along with the fast onset of COVID-19 came the ever-changing visiting restrictions. This made it problematic for SVCS to ensure that all staff, visitors and residents were aware of and satisfied with their COVID-19 measures in place.
Operational pressure due to lack of resources
One of the main challenges of COVID-19 across all aged care facilities is the lack of human resources.
SVCS managers were faced with increased pressure to maintain their high levels of efficiency and at the same time, had to deal with an increased workload because of COVID-19. As more visitors were visiting on the weekends, SVCS had to implement long schedules for their registered nurses and receptionists. This thus resulted in a stretch of resources with staff working long hours.
With tons of COVID-19 restrictions in place, SVCS had to appoint more staff to keep track of all visitors and screen them individually before they enter, causing a further stretch in human resources.
Difficult to keep up with changing restrictions
While it is imperative for SVCS and other aged care facilities to keep up and implement the aged care restrictions set by the Australian Aged Care Quality & Safety Commission (AQCS) and government policies, it is not easy to keep up with these ever-changing restrictions and guidelines.
Especially with facilities across different states, it is an upward battle to keep up with all restrictions. As Prue, SVCS Executive General Manager of Consumer Experience, recalls,
“It was difficult to keep up with the evolving regulations. Policies were often changing daily, and we had to interpret and filter these new rules for aged care across three different states. Some states were changing their guidelines at different times too, so applying one regimented, national rule for visitations was very hard at the start.”
How SVCS navigated these challenges of COVID-19
So how did St Vincent’s Care Services manage the challenges of COVID-19 and become COVID-ready?
Before COVID-19, SVCS has already been working with Rate It to help with their customer experience. With tons of pressure mounting up due to COVID-19, Prue reached out to Rate It with the challenges of COVID-19 that SVCS was currently facing.
As such, Zipline, a unique, 100% ACQS compliant visitor management system that incorporated visitor sentiment tracking and provided analysis on how to operationalise feedback given by visitors, was launched.
With the implementation of Zipline, SVCS could digitise their previously traditional and anecdotal mediums used to manage their visitors. This all-in-one visitor management system helps SVCS manage all visitor bookings and even records vital information such as visitor temperature as part of their visitor screening process.
Visitors can now pre-book their visits in line with the most current visitor restrictions and sign-in onsite. Front desk receptionists no longer need to help visitors arrange their visits and pre-screen them via phone call, saving some man-hours.
SVCS was also able to get a complete and accurate snapshot of the number of visitors per day and site. This helps mitigate one of SVCS’ problems of overcrowding prior to digitising their visitor management system.
With some staff working from home and remotely due to COVID-19, Zipline has provided SVCS managers with a transparent view around everything that is going on across all facilities. Also, with the knowledge of visitor patterns and schedule, SVCS is able to roster their staff more effectively, resulting in better and more efficient use of their manpower resources.
Not only were SVCS able to overcome the challenges of COVID-19, but they were also able to enhance their visitor experience by working on visitor feedback after their visits. After every visit, Zipline sends an SMS to each visitor asking for their feedback — asking about what they loved about their visit, and what could be improved. SVCS could then determine a consumer experience score out of ten. This would then be analysed for SVCS to take action immediately.
SVCS now — ready for a post-COVID world
Ever since launching Zipline, SVCS has processed 16,000 bookings across 20 sites in three months. All these bookings would have been phone calls if not for visitors’ ability to pre-book their visits online.
Achieving operational excellence
Prior to adopting Zipline, the team at SVCS could not pinpoint peak visitor hours, which hindered their attempts to implement social distancing measures as mandated by the government. This all changed when SVCS were able to identify peak hours with Zipline. SVCS were then able to deploy their staff accordingly and efficiently.
As a result, SVCS achieved 100% staff motivation and 88% staff satisfaction with their COVID-19 measures. Further, with staff being able to use their time more efficiently with visitor pre-booking and automated sign-ins, they were able to reduce 12 hours of time spent managing visitors each week.
100% ACQS compliant
One of the biggest challenges of COVID-19 that all aged care facilities across Australia face is staying compliant with their government restrictions and policies. Restrictions and policies are different within states, and changes occur differently, making it more difficult for aged care facilities to keep up.
However, with Zipline, SCVS visitor management processes are automatically and continuously updated with government restrictions. This has helped SVCS always to be 100% AQCS compliant. With the tiresome task of always keeping up with changing restrictions out of SVCS staff’s minds, they have more time and bandwidth to focus on other areas of their services.
Better relationship between SVCS, their residents and visitors
Not only did Zipline help SVCS manage their visitors, but it also acted as a bridge between SVCS and their visitors. Amid this pandemic, it is a given that residents’ families would feel anxious and be very eager to visit their loved ones.
Given this stressful time, SVCS has managed to manage visitors expectations when visiting effectively. SVCS has attained 96% visitor satisfaction with bookings made through Zipline, and 93% of visitors felt that SVCS’ COVID-19 policies were just right.
Not only were they keeping people safe and secure by preventing overcrowding in their facilities and tracking visitors in-and-out of their sites, but they were also able to improve the relationship between them and their visitors.
Having successfully navigated the challenges of COVID-19, St Vincent’s Care Services is continuing to work with Zipline, to further prepare itself for the new normal. Other than digitising their visitor management process, SVCS has also digitised their tour booking experiences.
The aged care industry must continue to navigate this uncertainty and consider how they are going to sustain their organisation. While it is conceivable that it will take a while for the aged care industry to resume normal operations, it is more than likely that aged care providers will have to be prepared for a new normal.
Regardless of the size of your aged care facility, Zipline can help you navigate through the challenges of COVID-19 like how SVCS did. Start by speaking to one of our experts!
Watch this Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) webinar on how the St Vincent’s Care Services team dealt with the transformational change of implementing the Zipline App for Residential Aged Care.