Unify Blog

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.

To begin – this is absolutely NOT a ‘woe is me’ blog. This blog is a true account of how Flex Working has enabled a family to retain ‘normality’ in a difficult situation.  Why am I telling this? Because it is factual, because it is relevant and because I like to address the taboo at times!

Naturally, there will be those that think that the course of action taken is insensitive or ‘wrong’. To those I say – we all deal with situations in our own way, in a way that helps us to get through them, and we are all individuals with individual paths.

Let’s go back four years. My mother was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. Surgery, Radiotherapy, Chemotherapy – it all went by in a blur, and my family’s lives changed forever.  This was a time of shock, change and fear of the unknown. We all took time away from working lives to be there and support – and to learn and understand what impact this would have, not only on Mum’s life, but also on our own.

One lesson I have learned along this 4 year journey is ‘what being able to work means to the sick’. At first, Mum’s employer was supportive of mum with her illness, but then as the sick pay runs out, and her ability to travel to work is impaired with the frequent hospital visits and bouts of extreme tiredness due to the treatments – She was pensioned off.

She lost daily contact with colleagues and her  feeling of worth deteriorated, the job  that she loved (and had studied for years to qualify for) was no longer hers. She missed her friends and interaction.  Her employer lost a loyal, committed and knowledgeable employee – taking with her experience and skills that they could have leveraged – had they had technology such as Circuit.  Circuit would have enabled knowledge share/team collaboration/advice on an ad hoc basis – the employer retains knowledge whilst the employee retains a feeling of value.  Even on a consultancy basis, this could have made Mum’s convalescence so much easier as she would have still felt valued, and her employer would have continued to realise the investment they had made into Mum’s education and qualifications.

Moving on, how has flex working helped me lately? Well, here is a diary of a recent week !

Monday: work from home, pack straight after and drive 100 or so miles to Mum’s to stay overnight ready for an early start the next day.  Because I am an ‘anywhere worker’ I am able to stay with Mum to help her out for a week after her Chemotherapy – so much better for her than taking her home to mine and her having to fit in with our daily madness at home. This way she gets to relax and be comfortable in her own home, her own bed, and with her own routine – but with that little bit of assistance and company through the post treatment lull.

Tuesday: Leave the house early, having booked a half day holiday. Now the reason for that half day’s holiday is that I would be spending a significant part of my day driving the 60 miles or so to the hospital for Chemotherapy treatment, so whilst driving I am not being productive. However, I only booked a half day as whilst the treatment was in progress and Mum slept, I had wifi and a laptop (and coffee!) and was able to be totally productive thanks to flexible work enabling technology. During this treatment though, it was identified that we now needed an urgent blood transfusion and an appointment to kick off a ‘port’ being fitted for administering future treatments, PLUS (yup… ANOTHER appointment) for a review with the Oncologist. Not a problem I say, I am fortunate that I am a) already staying at mum’s, b) my children are grown and don’t need me to rush home and c) I can work remotely and flexibly!

Wednesday: A work from (Mum’s) home day.  Pretty uneventful, business as usual.

Thursday: Early start, head the 60 miles back to the hospital for an early meeting with the Oncologist. I take another half day’s leave because actually, I need my head in  the room for this meeting – and I really do know when it is the right time to switch off work.  The appointment last’s just half hour, so we head to a restaurant for lunch and for me to get on the wifi and work for a couple of hours before the next meeting. Back to hospital, next appointment done and dusted, and then head to a local hotel. Hit the room, log onto free wifi and work til dinner.

Friday: Early start for blood transfusion. Settle Mum in, grab a coffee and whilst she sleeps I am working… typing this blog, amongst other things, as it happens!

So that is my week. I have demonstrated agility, I have worked flexible hours, I have known when is right to give my full attention to personal life over work – and taken holiday accordingly.

As this illness has been ongoing for 4 years, we have all learned to live with it. It is what it is. We are not complacent – but we have all adapted to a new way of living with it. Personally, I have found ‘business as usual’ to be very grounding.  I thank my lucky stars that I am able to balance work and life thanks to new ways to work.

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Reduced local government staff numbers, austerity measures, and significantly reduced funding can put local residents in potentially life-threatening situations. Maintaining critical level output is crucial. Here’s how austerity is affecting councils and how they’re responding…

Maintaining critical level output during local authority funding cuts and reduced staff numbers-01
Central government cuts in real terms funding for local authorities – 1.7% over the next four years – are leading to job losses across non-statutory services. Local authorities in England and Wales are not just facing a funding gap of £10 billion but will also have extra unfunded costs of £9.9 billion by 2019/20 to cover inflation and care services as demands rise because of the growing number of older people.

New government policies that affect councils will cost £6.3 billion by the end of the parliament – for example, a change in the rules making starter homes exempt from council charges could set local authorities back by £3 billion by the end of the decade. And a Local Government Association survey of 152 local authorities found that just 7% of councils felt they had the influence and funding they needed to support 16- to 18-year-olds.

Leeds City Council, for example, will have an £87 million funding gap in 2016/17, with £25 million less to spend on public health. Social housing rents will also go down and the council will have to reduce its staffing by losing 259 full-time equivalent positions. It, like other councils, will also start paying employees the real living wage of a minimum of £8.01 per hour from April 2016 adding to its costs.

 

How will this affect services?

As local authority heads of services try to deal with the funding cuts, the impact on vulnerable groups and communities could be devastating; there could be fewer opportunities, a lack of social justice and a rise in anti-social behaviour and loneliness in old age as the family and social networks break up. And short-term cuts alone could have a long-term impact on local communities that councils don’t even know about yet.

But councils still have a responsibility to meet the needs of local people, particularly vulnerable groups, children at risk, young and older people.

 

What are you doing to minimise risks and still provide critical services?

Doing joint risk assessments to look at the impact cuts could have on social and community issues and that involve a range of organisations, like the council, NHS and other public agencies is a good way of finding out how to better organise services to meet local needs. And investing money in a different way of working, moving towards partnerships with others and taking advantage of new technology can offset cuts, help you provide vital services more effectively and increase public confidence.

Responding to the cuts, Leeds City Council is putting services for vulnerable the young and older people at the top of its priority list. But the way it works will now have to be more commercial.

Leeds City councillor Judith Blake said: “The difficulty we now face is that with less and less government funding, council tax and other funding streams open to us have to be stretched further and further and even with the new social care precept we still have a significant gap in our public health and social care budgets which is a major concern. The council simply cannot continue to operate the way it has traditionally as the resource is no longer there, so we need to look at new ways of delivering services or helping people to help themselves, be that through working differently with partners or making the most of new innovations and technology.”

 

Are you ready to look at new ways of working?

Technology, such as cloud-based computing offering email, apps and networks as well as the facility to pool resources through mobile phones, tablets and other devices, can help you communicate better with other agencies and work in partnership to provide key services more efficiently and cost-effectively. Many local authorities are already using this kind of technology.

Hampshire County Council social workers will be able to get information about the background of a child, such as school attendance records, family details and notes made by different teams, from one resource thanks to new computer software that allows information to be shared. The One Social Care service also displays referrals and can automatically send a message to social workers if a child is excluded from school or misses a class. Issues can also be ‘de-escalated’ so that expensive interventions can be avoided.

Meanwhile, Leeds City Council and Calderdale Council got together to create a new database to help provide vulnerable residents in Leeds with more effective support. Through the system the city’s social workers can collect, store and manage information about their residents, see what decisions and action other agencies have taken and pick up any concerns. This integrated approach particularly helps vulnerable residents in remote areas.

Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Leeds City Council’s executive member for health, wellbeing and adults, said: “Demand for adult social care is increasing at a time when resources are more and more stretched, meaning it is vital that we find ways to work more efficiently so we can continue to effectively support vulnerable adults. Working with our colleagues in Calderdale to develop joint solutions is another great example of this.”

“This new software,” she added, “will mean our social workers will have the important information they need at their fingertips which will allow them to respond better and faster to the needs of the people they work with.”

A pilot scheme involving Cambridgeshire County Council and Central Bedfordshire Council provided 30 people over the age of 70 who did not feel confident about using information technology with a simplified Facebook-style app. It meant they could stay in touch with family and helped reduce their feelings of loneliness.

And in education, Hertfordshire County Council moved applications for secondary school admissions and free school meals online allowing it to get away from paper-based application processes. It was able to reduce red tape, drive down costs and improve services for parents and carers.

The Department for Communities and Local Government found councils that went digital saw average savings rise from £1.1 million to £1.4 million over 2015. Local government minister Kris Hopkins said: “Can do councils have led the way by proving that hundreds of millions of pounds can be saved every single year just by waking up to the digital dawn.”

 

Have you woken up to the digital dawn? Download The Local Authority Of The Future: Where The Citizen Comes First.

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Posted in Unified Communications

Coffee ShopOver the last few weeks I have been thinking (dangerous I know!) about how working from home, or remotely, impacts various areas of our lives, and I am still thinking!  This subject is huge. So, today, I figured that a re-cap on the more widely discussed aspects wouldn’t go amiss.

Environment. I did cover this a little under ‘commuting’ in a previous blog, but didn’t look at the bigger picture. What about the ‘green’ effect?  Cloud based applications deliver a seamless remote working experience, but they also deliver it with far less cabling and switches and hardware than a traditional PBX – and this ultimately means less manufacturing and pollution from manufacture, and less electricity being used as we plug in less boxes.

Furthermore, less travel means less fumes and less stress on our overloaded motorways.

How about Managing staff?   We have heard the objection : ‘how do I know staff are working?’.   Well that is an easy objection to overcome:  targeting and objective setting AND measurement against their KPI’s. ask yourself as a manager – ‘do they  achieve their objectives?’.  You could use ‘presence’ indications on today’s Unified Communications technology , easy to see who is online, who is busy and who isn’t.  Mind you, they could be working flexible hours – which is a new mind set for employees AND employers.  Statistics are regularly hitting the news to demonstrate that  employees that can balance work/home with flex work are more likely to stay/not leave for a pay rise, be more productive.

Then there are the Employees:’ I don’t have a spare room to create an office at home’.  Objection overruled! you don’t need a room – people work from coffee shops; needing  just need comfort, wifi and a  laptop/tablet. Gone are the days of multiple lever arch files crammed full of printed material.  These days we just scan a document  on our  smart phone, and save e-copy in the cloud.

We have moved on from environment to people.  Not just people – employees.  Flexible/remote working enables employers to widen the geographic talent pool.  The right person for a job may not live in commuting distance – why allow lack of technology to limit your businesses growth and success with the right employee?

Even Maternity/paternity leave is affected. Technology enables Keep In Touch days – allowing both employee and employer to plan for return to work. Employees can stay ahead of the conversations and projects gradually whilst off – not getting involved – but just keeping informed. This has to make their transition back to work far easier?

Relocation. With flexible/remote working there is no need to lose an employee who needs to relocate home due to spouse’s job relocation or desire to move to a new area;  Working from home means that germs don’t get spread and  the common cold that one employee is suffering from doesn’t travel through the entire team and affect everyone’s productivity; Even the weather affects productivity less than if everyone were travelling to an office. If you’re already set up for flex working, it means your team productivity won’t grind to a halt on a snow day (a GREAT competitive advantage if your rivals aren’t ready for it).  This really is the topic that can go on and on! It’s a topic that your HR department shouldn’t be ignoring!

 

To discover more about how remote workers can be enabled, securely and simply, visit www.unify.com

 

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By Paul Bender, Global Public Sector Marketing

Last year, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) released an ambitious, modern and highly connected model for soldier learning and training. As the TRADOC Army Learning Concept 2015 video highlights, the U.S. Army is moving toward a model of mobility, where e-learning, videoconferencing and gamification will be integral parts of a soldier’s work.

TRADOC isn’t the only branch of the U.S. Armed Forces that has embraced a digitally savvy approach to warfighter communication. The Navy, Air Force and others have initiated connected and collaborative e-learning programs to support soldiers with training and just-in-time resources.

As consumer and business technologies evolve, the Department of Defense (DoD) finds new uses for unified communications (UC) solutions to support military personnel at home and overseas. This includes the use of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, as well as platforms and solutions, like videoconferencing, voice and presence.  Now, DoD has migrated  and renamed “UC” from “Unified Communications” to “Unified Capabilities” to better describe the modern transition.

Adopting new technology is no easy feat for any organization, but due to the highly secure and classified nature of military operations, the challenges of upgrading and introducing new digital communication tools are magnified. This is what keeps defense organizations on the “trailing edge” of new technology trends.  Due to the unique and stringent requisites of the military, it is unrealistic to invest in tech the moment it becomes available. However, this does not dampen defense agencies’ motivations to take advantage of the latest UC innovations.

 Support and Secure

The DoD is working to support the use of mobile devices and digital communication within its divisions, but as always, the safety and security of warfighters is the top priority.

The use of mobile communication technology is rampant among civilians, so it should come as no surprise that this trend is seen with servicemen and women too. According to a report from the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, 96 percent of soldiers with a mobile device make voice calls and 95 percent use text messaging on a weekly basis.

The survey findings also reveal that nearly a third of soldiers own more than one mobile device, and younger soldiers are more likely to have mobile devices other than a smartphone, such as a tablet or e-reader.

There are obvious benefits for men and women in uniform who are able to better connect with their friends, loved ones and colleagues, particularly while on deployment. In fact, last year CNBC published an article about the benefits warfighters experience by feeling more connected while on deployment thanks to the modern technology on hand. But with these benefits come serious risks that cannot be ignored. If left unchecked, communication within the digital realm could inadvertently expose sensitive or classified information, putting individuals or entire missions in harm’s way.

 Advancements in Devices and Infrastructure

Fortunately, civilian and private sector tech is bolstering the UC strategy for military personnel. Siloed point solutions like walkie talkies, GPS trackers and traditional RFID connections have morphed into smart, connected, rugged devices that can perform all of these functions at once. This transformation helps servicemen and women better connect with each other and conduct their duties more efficiently.

Advancements go beyond handheld devices, to the services powering communications in the field and on base. Platforms that offer tools like VoIP, messaging, IM and video solutions mean the UC industry has become a critical factor in the DoD’s technology strategy. This also includes internal collaboration tools, such as blogs, wikis and other knowledge-sharing portals as outlined in a report from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR).

Cybersecurity is now an integral piece of UC solutions as well, rather than an afterthought. This makes new UC tools more appealing to the DoD, as it allows for easier securing of warfighter communications.

 Interoperability is Key to UC Strategy

Despite the myriad communication tools available for our nation’s warfighters, the DoD is working to consolidate its cyber infrastructure and technology platforms. It is a concerted effort to better secure, upgrade and enhance the digital experience for military personnel, and UC is no exception.

Defense agencies certainly need to consider endpoints, but perhaps more importantly, they need to consider the backend infrastructure and platforms that will enable dependable and scalable communication now and in the years to come. With so many UC vendors in the market, the DoD needs to be sure any technology investment will validate and enhance the military’s overall IT capabilities.

Interoperability should be an essential component of the DoD’s consolidation effort. It is imperative that existing legacy solutions work seamlessly with new platforms to ensure communications are truly unified. A good interoperability strategy will also anticipate the various ways UC technology will evolve five or ten years from now.

Agencies can expedite communications technology adoption by using Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) certified vendors. These companies have completed rigorous on-site testing with the military to ensure their technology solutions are held to the highest security and reliability standards set forth by the DoD, and that the solutions can be swiftly integrated into an agency’s IT schematic.

Interoperability is an important way for the military to stay on top of tech innovation while balancing openness and control for personnel. By prioritizing interoperability as a key component of the military’s IT consolidation efforts, warfighters across all branches of the military will be better equipped with the latest devices and UC innovations to support their collaboration, e-learning and daily duties.

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Harnessing technology to join up primary and secondary care and enhance patient experience.

Unified communication plays a key role in creating modern models of integrated care across primary and acute services. And the reason is quite simple. It enables information to flow seamlessly across care pathways and be securely accessed from anywhere in the health system, allowing for enhanced real-time communication among providers.

 

Integrated care enablers

A 2014 Health Research Board (HRB) review of international evidence concluded that effective information sharing and management are essential enablers of integrated care. It’s not just coincidence, say the review’s authors, that the best examples of integrated care have in common high levels of investment in advanced communication technology.

NHS England is already moving in this direction. In 2015, it announced the first nine integrated primary and acute care systems (PACS), which bring together GP, hospitals, community and mental health services.

They’re expected to reduce delays, duplication and errors, whilst preventing hospital admissions and readmissions, thanks to technology-enabled data sharing, patient remote monitoring and team collaboration.

This is of particular value for patients with multiple chronic conditions. It means that, in the future, people who suffer, for example, from depression and diabetes, will not have to go through separate assessment, diagnostic, referral and care processes.

They will be cared for by a single multidisciplinary team, who will assess all their needs and will consistently follow them across primary and secondary care and at home, from the first meeting to recovery.

Importantly, as the HRB review found, integrated care works only if incorporated at all levels of service delivery:

  • The macro level of whole populations.
  • The meso level of groups with the same condition or care needs.
  • The micro level of individual patients.

This blog describes evidence-based ways of integrating primary and acute systems to enhance patient experience. It includes examples of how this has already been achieved in health systems worldwide, at the macro, meso and micro level.

 

1. Keeping patients in their homes

Remote patient monitoring, management and support are a cornerstone of effective integrated care. Patients can live independently at home without missing out on vital treatment. Doctor and hospital visits are reduced. And so is the likelihood of needing emergency care due to a crisis.

The US Veteran Health Administration (VHA) is routinely using an advanced remote monitoring system nationally – a good example of integration at the macro level. The system collects real-time patient information and triggers warnings when problems occur, enabling prompt intervention by providers.

Adam Darkins, of the Department of Veterans Affairs, led a four-year study on the VHA system. He reports “a 25% reduction in numbers of bed days of care, [a] 19% reduction in numbers of hospital admissions, and a mean [patient] satisfaction score rating of 86%.”

In England, research published in the British Medical Journal shows that technology-enabled self-management at home within the Whole System Demonstrator Programme (WDP) – set up by the Department of Health in 2008 – significantly reduced patient mortality and hospital admissions and length of stay.

 

2. Enabling effective collaboration

The integrative nature of unified communications makes it vital to effective collaboration across care services. Think, for example, of video consultations or systems that enable doctors and nurses to be contacted on just one number on all their computer devices at the first attempt. They make collaboration easier. So primary and secondary providers can truly function as one team.

Thanks to enhanced collaboration, as in the scenario further up patients with multiple conditions can be managed through a single integrated care package, rather than separate services. This could be pivotal in putting mental and physical health on equal footing, as set out in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.

 

3. Managing care proactively

Another advantage of effective collaboration is that it enables the transformation from reactive to proactive care which contributes to integration across services.

An English example of proactive care and integration at the meso level is Torbay Care Trust. The target group is elderly people. Multidisciplinary teams manage their care by regularly reviewing their condition, so they can anticipate and prevent problems.

Undoubtedly, proactive care is facilitated by intelligent systems that, for example, allow care providers to reach out to one another at a touch of a screen, without constraints of time or space.

And the benefits are worthwhile. King’s Fund researchers report that Torbay has “the lowest use of hospital bed days in the region and the best performance in terms of length of stay.” What’s more, it ranked “highest in the south-west for the proportion of people reporting confidence with NHS services.”

 

4. Breaking down barriers through sharing

As described earlier, unified communication allows for the effective sharing of information, a key contributing factor to quality patient-centred care, according to work published in The American Journal of Managed Care.

One of the best examples of harnessing patient information sharing to deliver patient-centred, integrated care is the Care Connectivity Consortium created by five leading US health systems, including Kaiser Permanente and Mayo Clinic.

If a patient moves from one system to another, the treating doctor or nurse can access information about their medications and health condition and, consequently, provide timely treatment whilst avoiding errors.

 

5. Empowering patients and providers

At a micro level of individual patients, unified communication supports integration by enabling the following:

  • Collaboration among primary and acute providers, who can interact in real time with one another.
  • Enhanced clinical decision-making, through the use of electronic medical records, practice guidelines and drug libraries.

Plus, patients can:

  • View their records and book GP or hospital visits.
  • Receive medication or appointment reminders.
  • Connect with providers via texting, phone or video.

Solutions like the above have been implemented at Kayser’s HealthConnect, reducing visits to primary and secondary care providers by 25.3 and 21.5, respectively.

 

Takeaways:

  • Caring for patients in their homes is a key component of integration across services.
  • Employ solutions that enable collaboration among providers regardless of location.
  • Proactive care improves service performance and patient satisfaction.
  • Consider information sharing a core enabler of patient-centred, integrated care.
  • Empower providers to work effectively, and patients to remain in control.

 

Discover why integrated care is a key enabler of enhancing the patient experience. Download the report The Modern Patient Experience: Where Care Matters now.

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Posted in Unified Communications

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Unify Partner Conference 2017

Building on the strength and success of the Unify Partner Conference 2016 we are pleased to announce that 2017’s UPC will be held 12 – 14th July in Monte Carlo.

Attendance in Monaco will be by invitation only, and promises to build upon the stable platform that is the Unify Partner Program, using these foundations to deliver the art of the possible, whilst bringing a fresh approach to proceedings.

Invitation only? To attend – yes. However, for the first time we will be opening our virtual doors to all Unify Partner Program members, streaming live sessions and enabling interactivity through Circuit during the event.

We, at Unify, look forward to inspiring, motivating and enabling our partners to deliver  another successful year of growing relationships and exciting opportunities for 2017 and beyond.

Whether attending in person or virtually, there will be something for everyone, so mark the dates on your calendars and stay tuned for more information.

 

Not yet a Unify Partner? You can discover more here

Not yet on Circuit? Sign up or just take a look at what you are missing at www.circuit.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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