For assisted living and memory care communities, the benefits of using electronic health records (EHR) touch every area of operations: relationships with family members, resident engagement, employee satisfaction and turnover, compliance, operational efficiency, and operational cost. While these benefits make life better for everyone involved in life at a residential retirement community, nurses in particular stand to gain, as they’re often the hub of the many spokes of care.

If you’re thinking of switching to an EHR at your community (or looking for ways to convince leadership that it’s time to take the plunge), read on to get an idea of the top benefits EHRs offer to the stakeholders mentioned above.

Better Engagement with Families

In a study we commissioned from the University Chicago Booth School of Business, we found that 54 percent of family members with a loved one in assisted living only hear from providers in emergencies. Even worse, family members also reported that they felt frustrated by their efforts at better engagement, some reporting that calls and emails to check on daily activities, moods, and more went entirely unanswered.

A poll conducted in 2015 offered a similar insight: only three percent of senior living leaders considered family members to be the group most engaged with residents. Groups who seemed more engaged than family? Employees and volunteers (ouch).

From a nurse’s perspective, it’s easy to imagine how non-urgent emails and calls get lost in the mix. With so many to-dos on the list every day, family engagement may feel like a “nice to have” it’s easy to push to the bottom of the list. But expectations are changing, and that’s only going to accelerate as digital communication becomes more ubiquitous. Our study showed that many family members expect real-time information about assisted living and memory care residents – after all, they know this kind of data is possible thanks to apps and smart devices they use in other parts of their lives.

The good news? An EHR can help. Systems like Caremerge are built to enable not only electronic storage of medical and patient information but also streamlined (and in some cases automated) communication with families.

For example, our calendar feature lets family members check in remotely on what activities their loved ones attend each day. That’s particularly useful for memory care patients, who might report no activities despite having had a full day. When family members can confirm a digital check-in, though, they’re less likely to confront nursing staff with demands about why their loved one isn’t doing more.

This isn’t just a theoretical feature benefit of our software, either: 52 percent of our users say the Caremerge system has enabled easier communication among staff, residents, and families.

EHRs Simplify Document Storage

One of the most visible and immediate benefits of switching to an EHR system is the elimination of clutter. State laws vary in how long they require healthcare facilities to hold on to patients’ medical paperwork, but most require storage for somewhere in the neighborhood of seven to 10 years. In communities still relying on paper health records, that adds up to a lot of paper files, which is both expensive and potentially dangerous from a liability standpoint (what happens in a fire? Has that paperwork been backed up and stored offsite? Digitally? Is the digital storage HIPAA-compliant? And so on).

Electronic health records eliminate that problem. Digital files are not only easier to store, they’re also easier to search, sort, and access when you need them.

Seamless Incident Reporting

One of the beautiful things about EHR systems is that they enable memory care and assisted living communities to create a truly unified picture of their patients’ wellbeing – and even the wellbeing of the community as a whole. Incident reports in the EHR universe are a great example of this.

When your health records are electronic, incident reporting can happen seamlessly, as soon as a situation is stabilized: Caregivers and other parties can fill out reports on a tablet, for example, and take notes from everyone present while they’re still there, rather than trying to track them down hours later, after finding the proper paper form.

Filing digital incident reports is simple, and most systems can be set up to notify stakeholders of incidents in a number of ways: as they occur, as a weekly report, when certain types of incidents happen, etc.

Plus, once they’re in your system, digital incident reports make it easier to identify trends and correlate incident data with other resident data. So if falls are more likely in one area of the building or at a certain time of day, it’s easier to spot the trend, identify a cause, and correct it. Similarly, it’s much easier to notice resident-specific trends, including indicators that a person may need to be moved to a different level of care.

Easier & More Accurate Assessments

Resident assessments are central to the care provided by any assisted living or memory care community. But getting them right can be complicated, especially when you have to take into account…

  • State guidelines for conducting assessments after incidents.
  • Translating paper assessments to digital formats (especially when they involve conditional logic).
  • Complex scoring guidelines.

And if your CNA turnover is high, you have to be more or less in constant training mode on top of all that. Switching to an EHR that has assessments built in can save significant time in both the short term (i.e., you don’t have to translate paper to digital) and the long (i.e., it’s easier to analyze data from digitally stored assessments).

Caremerge systems come with certain assessments pre-programmed, but we’re also able to work with your team to build additional assessments as needed. As many as 28 percent of our customers note that using our software helps them with regulatory compliance.

Lower Employee Turnover

One of the most exciting benefits of EHRs to a lot of nursing staff is their potential to lower turnover of CNAs and other essential employees. Research from 2017 shows that CNAs have the highest turnover rate among all types of nursing staff, at 24.6 percent (compared with 14.6 percent for bedside RNs).

That turnover gets expensive for memory care and assisted living communities: research shows that it costs an average of $30,000 to recruit, orient, and train a CNA, while the average annual pay for this role is just $27,208. In other words, it’s more expensive to lose a CNA than employ one, meaning there’s a real economic incentive to reducing turnover.

How can nurses do that?

One study showed that the factors correlated with lower CNA turnover include…

  • Higher wages.
  • Engagement with their work.
  • Job satisfaction.
  • Work environments where CNAs feel empowered.

Notably, 15 percent of Caremerge users indicate that the EHR software improves employee engagement. Another four percent actually saw reductions in staff turnover after adopting Caremerge. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that many CNAs are digital natives and so expect to be in a work environment where electronic health records and other forms of digital work facilitation are the norm.

EHRs Benefit Everyone: Staff, Residents, Families

Better outcomes for patients, easier communication with families, lower employee turnover, easier compliance – what’s not to love about EHR systems, right? In reality, though, we know the transition can be challenging, even when you know the outcome will be transformative.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Caremerge can help you achieve all this (and more!) in your community, sign up for a free demo. We would be delighted to walk you through some use cases that are relevant to your world.

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