Sep 25, 2019

Icon-based software solves language dilemma for care staff

A community aged care provider that employs only bilingual care staff has overcome the language barrier by adopting new software that relies heavily on the use of icons.

Australian Nursing Home Foundation (ANHF) is a community based, not-for-profit organisation that has been around for nearly 40 years. It provides aged care mainly for the Chinese and South-East Chinese communities, offering the full spectrum of care services, including residential care, community services, a seniors wellness centre, community packages, volunteer services, community housing, and seniors accommodation.

Today at Akolade’s 4th Future of Aged Care Summit, Ada Cheng, CEO, ANHF, caught up with HelloCare to discuss how new software has helped the organisation overcome a language barrier it was experiencing.

The software, which is titled Person Centred Software (PCS), uses icons extensively, making it perfect for ANHF’s multicultural base where all staff are bilingual.

Writing care notes often challenging for multicultural staff

“As we are an ethno-specific organisation… language was an issue,” Ms Cheng told HelloCare. 

“We always found we got the best care staff, but for them to translate daily care into written notes was sometimes quite challenging. Sometimes they might have restricted vocabulary, or sometimes the challenge is they’re very busy. It’s very hard,” Ms Cheng said. 

From time to time, critical incidents weren’t recorded, and that made it difficult to provide evidence tasks had been completed when assessors visited.

Ms Cheng said carers input information into the PCS using a wide range of icon buttons, for example there are icons for toileting, medication, laundry and walking, as well as for participating in activities or playing a game.

Each icon pressed means the information is recorded immediately, usually as the task or event is performed, and the data can then be accessed instantly through the whole facility, “from the RN to the manager”.

Resident data uploaded

Recording that a task has been completed is quick, easy and, importantly, it only has to be done once, Ms Cheng told HelloCare.

An image of the resident’s face appears at the top of each profile, and care plans can be uploaded onto the software. It’s quick and easy for carers to access information for each resident about their schedules, preferences, and other critical matters. 

“It will all be in there,” Ms Cheng said.

Multilingual inputs possible

Staff can even write in their own language into PCS, including in Chinese either through a keyboard or on a section of the screen you can write on.

For staff to be able to write in their own language was particularly important when they encountered a stressful situations because English, as a second or even third language, might not come easily to them during these events, Ms Cheng said.

Bringing staff along with you

Initially staff at ANHF resisted the new technology, but following a carefully planned introduction they have come to understand its usefulness.

Emily Chong, a facility manager at ANHF, said when implementing the software, it was important that staff were brought along on the journey. The program has been brought in slowly, with carers simply asked to carry the devices around without using them at first.

Now staff are happy with the change, saying PCS is easy to use, fast, and makes it simple to create reports and charts from the data that is gathered.

Solving one problem created flow-on benefits

ANHF is currently trialling PCS in parallel with its pre-existing system and after 12 months it looks likely it will switch over completely. The software initially cost $10,000, with no back-out fee.

Eventually data from the system will be open to families, building trust and creating accountability.

“It’s amazing because it saves so much time. You have evidence, care plans and information about medication at your fingertips,” Ms Cheng said. There’s less paperwork and greater transparency too, she said.

Being motivated to overcome language barriers at ANHF has generated a number of other ‘unintended consequences’ too.


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