Editor’s note: Today’s post comes from Bart Louwagie, CIO of Ulster-Greene ARC (UGARC). UGARC is a private, nonprofit agency offering support for intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals in Ulster and Greene counties in New York.
At UGARC, we provide a full array of customized support and services for individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, these include educational programs, vocational readiness, job training, residential options and clinical services. We have over a thousand employees helping more than 1,300 people live full and meaningful lives.
There are a lot of medically frail people in our care who need 24/7 support. At the same time, our direct support workers need to record every event that takes place when they are “on the clock” including daily activities, food preferences and behavioral events. This information is collected in different databases and pulled up by other direct support workers or nurses who might work with the same person. The challenge for our employees is multi-tasking — it’s hard to give someone your undivided attention when you’re also trying to take notes down before you forget.
For a long time, direct support workers used pen and paper and then spent time entering their notes into a computer when they had some down time. It’s not the most efficient, but paper is easy. You just slap it on the table and start scribbling. As the leader of the IT department, I wanted to introduce technology that was as frictionless as paper and as “invisible” as possible, so our employees could spend more time focusing on the individual.
As a nonprofit we didn’t have many resources to use on new technology. With Chromebooks and Google Apps we were able to create an incredibly affordable, secure and easy-to-manage system for employees to collect and share patient information. We purchased 130 Samsung Chromebooks and locked them down in Kiosk mode, via the management console, so a staff member could only access essential web-based forms. We synchronized this with Active Directory so logons are easy. Now, when direct support staff are with the people, they simply turn on the Chromebook, log into the Electronic Healthcare records and start taking notes right away. By cutting down their note taking time, our direct support staff can focus on what is most important for the person.
As a healthcare provider, we needed to meet stringent regulations around data privacy and security. Chromebooks are by far the easiest computers to manage and secure, thanks to the remote management console. Chromebooks give us granular control over who can access what data, preventing problems with confidentiality of personal information. Since we store no data, we are confident that losing a device will not lead to data loss.
Our employees love Chromebooks, but I think the IT department has felt the biggest impact. Because Google automatically sends updates to each device, all we need to worry about is managing permissions for each user. We’ve saved hours of work each week by not having to maintain laptops, their applications and managing upgrades. It takes less than 10 minutes to configure a new Chromebook just the way we want, versus the hours it would have taken with a Windows-based netbook.
Chromebooks have truly achieved my desire for “invisible” technology that’s simple to use, easy to manage and affordable. We hope to roll out more Chromebooks in the future.