By Fahad Aziz, co-founder and chief technology officer, Caremerge.
As senior care providers brace for a potential second wave of COVID-19, they must hone their plans to keep residents safe, happy, and healthy while in quarantine.
But in a community of hundreds of residents, it can be challenging to monitor each and every resident’s health and wellbeing without help from technology.
Enter electronic health record (EHR) systems and resident activity and wellness data, which give community decision makers a fuller picture of each residents’ health so that they can provide the care and activities to match.
Here’s how data can help communities act on a more holistic, individualized model of care for their seniors, throughout the pandemic and into the future.
EHRs Streamline the Continuum of Clinical Care
The pandemic has highlighted a major operational pain point on the clinical side of senior living. Reliance on manual health data creates information silos, and it’s very difficult to transfer resident health information to and from health care providers when it’s all on paper.
EHRs make communication between care providers a lot more efficient and transparent. When a resident’s clinical profile is all digital, senior living staff can easily record, update, send, and retrieve information so that they can focus on what matters: providing excellent care for residents.
By Fahad Aziz, co-founder and CTO, Caremerge.
Tech innovations are improving senior care by breaking down data and communication silos. That’s important in normal times and infinitely more so during times of crisis, when clear, timely communication and flexible access to care become crucial to the health and well-being of senior care residents, staff, and family members.
Here’s a look at how four key technology innovations are improving senior care and how the COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting strengths and shortcomings that fly under the radar during normal times.
1: Healthcare Systems that Talk to Each Other
A lot of senior living communities are excellent at delivering care but struggle with managing communications. And it’s no wonder: when you’re juggling multiple communication points for health records, medication administration, and communication (with staff, residents, and family members), it’s hard to keep everyone updated in ways that are both timely and HIPAA compliant.
That can be a pain point in the best of times; during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be dangerous.
High-risk residents may not be adequately isolated from social events, for example, if staff don’t see EHR updates in a timely fashion. Or a family member might miss an email about lockdown and visit a resident’s direct entrance, risking the spread of pathogens.
The good news is that technology that consolidates EHR, eMAR, and messaging into a single platform can streamline communications and eliminate the risks that result from missed messages and mixed signals. And these platforms don’t have to come with a months-long onboarding process; as part of our response to the current pandemic, we launched 280 communities onto our platform in just 10 days.
2: More Efficient Staff-to-Staff Communication
Too often, retirement community staff spend time documenting, reviewing, and tracking down messages from other shifts that they’d rather spend interacting with residents. Digital staff-to-staff communication platforms can eliminate that problem by facilitating communication.
For example, mobile apps can show highlights from a previous shift, including anything unusual or that requires attention. And because such apps are HIPAA-compliant and accessible from mobile devices, staff members can view key information before starting a shift, meaning they can hit the ground running each day – particularly important during crises, when policies and procedures might change from shift to shift.
Another key benefit of digital communication platforms is that they help ensure staff are accessible in case of an emergency, which can help keep everyone in a community healthy and safe. And because this tech makes it possible for messages to be conveyed fast, from anywhere, it helps reduce the total amount of time workers spend on communications and therefore maintain work-life balance.
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.