Back in 2013 a parliamentary report was published by the British Association of Social Workers. Amongst other items it highlighted Social Work and the IT systems that support them. Going on to say that these systems were “failing practitioners” and they “felt chained to their desk by unwieldy IT systems”. It was a report that we listened to and started on the road to creating our Eclipse case management system, alongside the pioneering Platform for Care.
What has changed in 2017?
By many accounts, not much. An independent investigation was launched in 2016 by the Social Work Tutor platform (SWT) into work related stress and the part that technology plays. It found that only 36.5% of social workers questioned felt that their IT systems were fit for purpose. This is a shocking statistic. Only a minority of social workers believe that their IT systems allow them to do their jobs effectively.
One of the main problems that the report found was that forms within case management systems were not fit for purpose. They required the individual to duplicate lots of information, which was time consuming. With more demands than ever before on the time of social workers and those involved with health and social care, this is unacceptable. Forms that are inflexible have not been created with those who will use them in mind.
We created our latest case management upgrade, Eclipse, with health and social care professionals in mind. We developed it alongside more than 300 social care practitioners, using our vast experience of creating software solutions for clients across the UK as a base point. One of the key points that emerged from initial discussions with workers was forms. Their thoughts echoing the sentiments conveyed within the SWT investigation.
With this in mind, we set out to change the perception of what forms can deliver. We developed a forms builder engine that offers flexibility, alongside flexible customisation options. By creating flexibility you ensure that all service users can have their needs effectively recorded, from those living with disabilities to those who have special education needs.
The lack of flexibility within forms has had a knock on effect within cases. The inability to quickly change forms has resulted in some social workers being forced to revert to paper while the system catches up. A prominent example of this is when a social worker is working on a case and receives a call about another case. They try to switch screens but the software is unable to keep up. To avoid asking a service user to call back, which would be damaging to them, the social worker takes notes via pen and paper. This may seem innocuous but has a knock-on effect time wise.
If this happens a few times in a day, then the social worker could potentially end up losing valuable time. Even one hour lost per day due to technology inefficiencies is too much. This will be proven when the social worker has less time to spend with a family or service user that is in dire need of assistance.
The SWT investigation also highlighted hot desking as an issue. In particular, social workers, arriving in the morning to find no computer available for them to use. They then spend the next half an hour looking for one and thus wasting additional time.
Mobile working goes a long way to solving this issue. We built Eclipse with a mobile-first philosophy in mind, which means that the solution is not restricted by device. It can be used on mobile, tablet or desktop. This frees social workers from being “…chained to their desk by unwieldy IT systems”. They can update their case notes from home, the hospital, office or even when they are with their clients.
Time spent at the computer
Just 19% of those surveyed felt as though they spent the appropriate amount of time at the computer. This was linked to the reasons outlined above, poor form design, not being able to find a computer and complexity of design in regards to the systems being used.
We built Eclipse with simplicity in mind. We didn’t want to create a system that looked great but didn’t consider the end user. The role of a social worker is a complex one. They need every available second that they can spare with their families. The families that they have to look after within their caseload are the number one priority. They don't need to be wasting time navigating screens to get to where they need to, it takes away from the time that they have with the families.