Automation - a Subordinate to Essential Workers


Try to imagine the lifecycle of a communication technology, progressing from switchboards to a centralized dispatch network. The initial routes taken to further this technology starts manually, is tedious and the journey, long. Yet, at every phase, where change then accelerates development, new industries adopt core functionality from time tested, innovative advancements. Envision the amount of hacking and tinkering that happens over time to soon reveal a collective body of work designed to simplify operations. Patchbays become processors. Large encasing materials reduce to tiny microchips. Precedents integrate into norms. Chaos is streamlined.

Deep into The Fourth Industrial Revolution

We’re seeing boundaries melt into each other between the physical and the digital realms. Route planning and travel optimization is a good example of this. Setting a navigator on your phone to help you make the right travel decisions cuts time and reduces tedious brainwork to help you focus on the steering tasks at hand.

Rarely do you hear of anyone manually piloting aircrafts but rather monitoring all signals to ensure a fast optimal route to the goal. Embedded or ingrained into the scope of navigation is a spirit akin to data analysis. Aside from what the computer generated output is saying, you are taking this information and mapping out an even better track to the end point.

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Essential Workers are Society’s Lifeline

In organizing around a mobile workforce, communication, physical labor and travel create a tenuous link between productivity and fatigue. For an industry like Home Health Nursing, organizing a network of clinicians, requires quick thinking, decisiveness and navigation planning all easily done through controlled inputs. Yet a good majority of operations are still manual, relying on skills akin to a switchboard operator patching exchanges for end to end users to establish telephone calls. Operators manage a tightly organized matrix that calls for expert knowledge of where the patch inputs go. A high amount of focus is needed to ensure connections are properly made. Mental exhaustion and burnout is imminent.

Automation, But Make it Personal

The movement towards digitization of services should be seen in the light of assessing and evaluating social and environmental impact. Automation-- to enhance capability for physical labor rather than replacement for in-person work-- should be the end goal of intelligence-based administration. A program for route optimization in order to reduce miles spent on the road minimizes wear and tear and mitigates your organization’s carbon footprint. A match in essential clinical workers' skill sets with patient’s needs (to reflect a possible combination of services performed including: wound care, disease management, medical equipment operation, therapy, medical social services as well as patient education) will help ensure delivered care that exceeds expectations in: timeliness, quality and satisfaction.

User-Centric Communication

Established in 1996, HIPAA compliance refers to a set of rules to enforce privacy and security protocols for patient health data. Within the United States' Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Civil Rights regulates the rulesets to safeguard health providers and clients from external manipulation. Encryption of chats that may include notes from a home health agency’s EHR (Electronic Health Records) need to ensure the technology is robust and stable to withstand attacks and external hacking.

In this case, a system that also manages outbound communication streams, especially regarding sensitive patient data, needs to be incorporated as part of the day to day in logistics management for patient care delivery.

Track Progress Relentlessly

Continuously scoring and measuring how well you have executed on plans and actions helps to mitigate unforeseen circumstances. Dashboards that take activity inputs to output high level success metrics in patient care stats helps sustain the movement towards more expansive and aspirational approaches to organize a workforce. Benchmarking KPIs (key performance indicators) like: mileage activity, fulfillment rates of assignments, cost inputs help set up the foundation towards operational excellence.

Digitization and automation have wide reaching benefits for users of all persuasions. It can be a soothing balm to alleviate frustration and burnout. It should not however be rational to over exert your team. Sustaining the force behind your operation, being aware that humans and the environment are driven to unprecedented capacity should focus on safeguarding our collective's future. Organizations that regulates the output of services while contributing tirelessly to prevent systemic collapse extends our runway as inhabitants of earth for a few more generations.

Finally, in our brief coverage above around home health, it is worth a read to learn more about Lilian Wald, an American pioneer of public health nursing, activist for the rights of women and minorities and was involved in the founding of the NAACP. Her contributions towards helping low income and immigrants living in poverty providing health care delivery and educational training created wide reaching applications for social services. Wald was a tireless advocate of accessible health and laid the groundwork for nursing practices influencing modern day efforts in what we now refer to as home health.