How we solve human problems through code – National Coding Week 2019
As a software company, one of the main areas of our work is to solve problems through code. Since our very beginnings, we have been using code to try to improve various business activities, and to solve some very human problems.
Back in 2003, our Managing Director, David Lynes, set-up Unique IQ to try to address some of the pain points he could see with managing remote workforces. From guaranteeing the safety of lone workers, to making sure a cleaning job gets done, to giving patients a high standard of care, there are lots of challenges that are characteristic of mobile workforces, that software and coding can help to fix.
Solving problems through code
Here of just a few of the ways we’ve used coding to solve some common business problems in an innovative way.
Making sure a job gets done – one of our first solutions was to build an electronic call monitoring system, a way for remote workers such as mobile cleaners or care workers to clock in and out of appointments. By calling a freephone number from a landline whilst on-site, office staff can confirm an employees’ location and time stamp it within an online timecard system. This moved staff away from filling out paper timesheets, giving the business more accurate records for payroll.
Mobile clocking in – when we built our mobile app, one of the big improvements it brought to home care agencies was the ability to focus on the patient first. When carers arrive at someone’s house, the typical way of letting their office know they’ve arrived is by calling in via landline. But this has several downsides. Most obviously, someone else might already be using the phone. It’s also a bit intrusive to arrive at someone’s house and immediately make a call. More importantly though, in scenarios where a patient needs urgent help, such as having fallen or been taken ill, a carer can give them their full and immediate attention. The clock-in – a mandatory part of the carer’s role – has been taken care of by a quick touch of a button outside the front door, leaving them free to do what they’re there to do: care.
GPS tracking – keeping lone workers safe is a major responsibility for employers of mobile workers. Cleaning staff or carers will spend large proportions of their time working alone in multiple different locations, including late at night. Our mobile app uses a GPS lock so a business can see where and when their workers were last active. It also provides a discreet and immediate way of keeping in contact.
Push notifications – building notifications into our mobile app created an instant alerting system so that businesses could keep track of their workers in real-time. For example, cleaning businesses can be alerted within moments if one of their employees has failed to turn up on time, and therefore intervene early prior to having to find out from an irate customer. Similarly, domiciliary care agencies can be alerted if a carer has missed giving some medication, and immediately follow-up to find out why – protecting the patient, as well as being essential criteria by which the Care Quality Commission assesses a care service.
Electronic records – it’s common to see manual record keeping in businesses with mobile workers. For example, in the home care industry, care plans are usually left in a service user’s home for the carer to read upon arrival, and any changes require physically taking a folder back to the office to be updated. Similarly, in the cleaning industry, task lists with tick sheets are often found in supply cupboards for the employee to read and fill in. We created a mobile app so that mobile workers would have the important records they need to do their jobs at their fingertips, removing the requirement to carry around paper documents that quickly go out of date or get lost.
Voice to text – relying on reading someone else’s handwriting is riddled with the potential for errors. Our mobile app makes use of voice to text functionality, so that workers can dictate notes directly into their phones, speeding up record keeping as well as reducing the margin for mistakes. In the home care industry, this is critical for making sure service users receive the right care, as well as giving carers more face time with their patients.
Trend spotting – one of the beauties of keeping digital records is the opportunity it offers to turn them into data that can be analysed. Our new outcome management module in our IQ:timecard system brings notes left by carers into a centralised outcomes screen. They can then be analysed by keyword to look for trends – such as a reference to dizziness on consecutive days which could indicate an increased risk of a fall. Spotting trends early means better care and potentially an improved quality of life.
As a business we pride ourselves on continually innovating. Our newest piece of software is IQ:passive – which will use mobile technology to ‘passively’ clock remote workers in and out, without the need for any intervention from them. And we’re continuing to develop our electronic records software, which will improve safety and quality in the care industry. Of course, our coders are also working away on solving many more problems which we need to keep under wraps for the time being.
We’ve been at this for 15 years now, and we intend to keep using software and coding to find new ways of improving the working lives of remote staff, in turn making a difference for the people they work for – be that business owners, or vulnerable people in need of care.
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