Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions have been around for two decades or more. It is only with the advent of a new national scheme that they are being implemented across Australia's disability sector.
There are several reasons for this. The key driver is the evolution of disability services that put the participants at the center. It is happening with the rollout of the AUD 22 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Making the Digital Connection
Before the NDIS, providers did not have relationships with people having disabilities. Instead, they were working with the Government agency that was funding them.
As a result, the demands on the technology were transactional between provider and funding body. The primary focus was in reporting back to the Government agency on how the company used the funds.
Paul Grundy is the director of the Technology Advisory practice at KPMG Australia. He leads his company’s IT strategy delivery in the health, aged, care and community services sector.
Over the last 18 months, Grundy developed and rolled out KPMG’s solution to NDIS providers. It gave him a front-row seat to see how technology plays in the sector.
“Technology in the disability sector began by reporting the Minimum Data Sets required by Government. But then it moved on to a focus on efficiency,” he said.
“That was where many of the solutions we have now started to evolve. Then they began looking at other needs such as how to optimize workforce efficiency, and scheduling, and then some rudimentary capabilities around recording details about the care which is being provided.”
KPMG built its solution on the Microsoft platform. It has configured it with a top layer that is specific to NDIS processes.
While compliance may be a driver, the technology aspires to be a 360-degree answer. It combines planning, scheduling and reporting. The difference is that the participant is at the center and not at the end of the line.
All these functions need to be able to "talk to" each other within the same solution. It also connects with third-party solutions so that everything can work together. KPMG embeds a compliance layer throughout the solution.
Built for 'People People'
Efficiency is still part of the technology push. Much of it is focused on staff management.
“The pricing that has been set in the NDIS has been challenging for many provider organizations which have a large fixed cost. So, they are looking to manage costs, and a lot of that is in their workforce," Grundy said.
“Providers want to understand the costs of delivery in a particular region. If it is working for them, or whether they need to bring on a few more clients because they have a number of support workers who are underutilized, the data can work for you so you can maximize the opportunities which exist.”
Providers understand that there is competition for good staff in the disability sector. Technology can relieve the administrative burden on staff. Many of them are also working remotely with a client base in their local area.
"These people come into the sector because they are 'people people' and they want to be delivering support services," Grundy said.
“Technology can help providers make sure they are paying people appropriately, so they don't have to ring up at the end of every month and say 'why was I paid X when I should have been paid Y’," he continued.
"That sort of thing in this market can create dissatisfaction, and that can be a motivation to move to another provider. And because staff members are the ones with the client relationships, the worst case scenario is that the client leaves as well.”
Linking Front to Back
A final part of the solution is what Grundy called “connecting front to back.”
Providers need to make sure they are billing for the services they have agreed to contract for. It also means that what they claim from the NDIS lines up with what they committed to in their contracts. Any gap or discrepancy can create extra work. The potential for conflict and an undermining of confidence and reputation also increases.
“Being a people focused sector, organizations in the past had a tendency perhaps to overservice and then wear that cost internally,” Grundy said.
“With the cost pressures they are under now, they have to be able to be better at monitoring and measuring the services they are billing for, against the services which were agreed and they were contracted for. To claim through the NDIS portal means they have to do the right reconciliations.”
Even something as simple as a participant staying at a different address can put the spanner in the works. Technology can help with this too.
Files on participants can include simple notes that mention different addresses. So, the person delivering the service can be at the right address. Staff members must be able to access this information at any time and from anywhere using their devices.
The NDIS is also focused on goals and improving outcomes for participants. These can be set, monitored and measured through the technology platforms. Third parties like auditors or regulators can then access this data.
“So the technology delivers engagement, efficiency and financial connectivity with the client at the center,” says Grundy.
Grundy believed that, like the NDIS, technology solutions are only at the beginning of their development journey to a new and better level of functionality and service.
“Let’s think about people with visual disabilities. What is the best way to communicate with them if they want to check and see what time their support worker is coming?” he asked.
“So that means we should look at personal assistants like Alexa. And have this information relayed through voice rather than text. I think the opportunity for this kind of technology to help people with disabilities is enormous, and we are just at the start of that journey now.”