EHR Integration Is Key To Running a Five-Star Senior Healthcare Facility

By Fahad Aziz, co-founder and CTO, Caremerge.

Senior living communities depend on human connection and care that serves each resident’s individual needs. But too often, a paper charting system gives way to inefficiencies such as medication mistakes, poor compliance, revenue leaks, and overall headaches for staff and administrators. As a result, senior living communities that rely on paper charts can’t always deliver the level of care they want to provide their residents. This can lead to dissatisfaction among residents.

And if residents are unhappy, community executives are unhappy.

That’s where electronic health records (EHR) come in. They eliminate the pain points of a manual documentation system and make it easier for staff and administrators to focus on the “why” of caring for residents by streamlining the “how.”

Here’s a look at the four main ways EHRs strengthen operational efficiency in senior living communities and enable excellent care for residents.

EHRs Improve Communications and Transparency

Senior living care hinges upon having access to accurate, up-to-date information about a resident’s health. For CNAs to deliver that care to residents, they need to communicate critical information smoothly and in a timely manner.

With a paper documentation system, it’s too easy for important details to get lost in the constant shuffle of folders and paperwork. Poor handwriting can cause confusion. If residents have incomplete clinical profiles, CNAs’ jobs are harder – there’s lots of back-and-forth with other CNAs and digging through file cabinets to find the information they’re looking for.

Compare that with EHRs: CNAs can use EHRs to efficiently record and access information about a resident’s health in real time, on cell phones, tablets, or computers. This information means CNAs can trust the EHR to correctly answer questions about a resident’s medication doses and clinical history.

Plus, long-term record keeping is critical in a senior living community with high staff turnover. EHRs make it easier to onboard new CNAs and help them quickly get acquainted with individual residents’ profiles.

But staff aren’t the only ones who benefit from enhanced communication through EHRs. A centralized and digitized record of contacts invites everyone to the conversation about a resident’s health.

If a resident visits the hospital, medical professionals can forward a hospital intelligence report to anticipate changes to resident services. This elevated communication between senior living communities and hospitals can improve health outcomes – research from the National Institutes of Health shows that EHR use in hospitals decreases readmission rates.

Family members at home want to stay in the loop on their loved ones’ health, too. EHRs can integrate clinical information into senior living family communication portals. That way, family members don’t just hear during visits or after an emergency – they can check in on their loved one’s health as often they please.

EHRs Empower Resident Wellness and Personalized Care 

Everyone deserves personalized care as they age. When older adults make the transition into assisted living, it’s important that caregivers understand not only their clinical information, but also their preferences, hobbies, and routines – in other words, who they are as a person.

But providing individualized attention to hundreds of senior living residents in a community can seem organizationally daunting and time-intensive.

Research from the NIH shows that in a medical setting, EHRs allow doctors to make profile-based recommendations and offer person-centered treatment. It follows, then, that this same level of personalization is possible with EHR integration in a senior living community.

By streamlining the documentation of clinical information, vital signs, and medications, EHR platforms make care more standardized so that CNAs can focus on the individual aspects of wellness for the residents in their community.

An EHR portal lets caregivers create a care plan that extends beyond traditional clinical metrics. For instance, by tracking community event attendance, a CNA might encourage a resident to participate in more social activities to promote greater social well-being.

Ultimately, person-centered care relies on relationships built on trust. EHRs capture a resident’s full portrait of health so that caregivers spend less time tracking down information and more time getting to know the people they serve.

EHRs Support Compliance Reporting

EHRs don’t only increase transparency and trust in a senior living community and with loved ones back home. They also create stronger relationships with state compliance auditors.

If the state is auditing your senior living community, you’re going to need to provide auditors a clear record and have some sort of community assessment. If your resident and care records are all stored online, communicating performance is much easier.

EHRs have notification rules built into them that help the CNA team stay compliant and follow up on exceptions to resident care. For instance, if your community is required to document the outcome of treatment for injuries sustained during a fall, EHRs can be configured to provide incident reporting protocol to employees responsible for documentation.

Each state has its own compliance laws. Managing an assisted living portfolio across multiple states, then, is difficult if all of your compliance reporting happens on paper. EHR platforms integrate state-specific compliance protocols so that there’s no confusion over which details to include when communicating with an auditor.

One of the main components of compliance reporting is medication distribution. Given that 77% of older adults are managing two chronic diseases, documenting resident prescription management in even a single senior living community is a complex task. But resident well-being depends on getting this right.

The good news is there’s a digital tool for that now – an electronic medical administration record (eMAR) works hand-in-hand with EHR data to provide accurate reporting of medicine intake. EHRs and eMARs together let CNAs efficiently complete necessary documentation of residents’ medication activity and stay on top of their to-dos. Crucially, these two digital record types ensure that residents are receiving the medical solutions they need while simultaneously reinforcing transparency for compliance purposes.

EHRs Facilitate Senior Living Community Benchmarking

Senior living communities often operate on tight margins. For this reason, it’s vital that administrators keep track of all changes to care plans to prevent revenue leaks and non-credited care. If a resident requests and gets additional days of assistance during the week, but their care plan only outlines one day, then the community loses revenue and the CNAs are doing more work than their schedules dictate.

Improved charting means CNAs can better track changes in a resident’s care plan and easily share those changes with administrators. EHRs and eMARs show the care that’s expected and the care that’s delivered. Identifying gaps between the two is invaluable for a community administrator’s bottom line.

Increasing CNA burnout and turnover rates are a paramount concern in senior living community management, so it’s critical to make sure CNAs aren’t being overworked for services that aren’t accounted for. Increased transparency through digital records goes beyond serving residents – it ensures staff are being treated equitably and that your community is operating with secure margins.

EHR Integration Moves from Nice-to-Have to Need-to-Have 

From managing interoperability across state lines to ensuring all residents receive the medication necessary for their well-being, senior living communities face a host of operational challenges that are only further complicated by a paper records system.

Technology is making it easier for all stakeholders to access the centralized information necessary to deliver tailored, person-centered care. As senior living communities grow, EHR integration will no longer be nice to have; it will be essential for the well-being of residents and communities alike.

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