Switching from paper to electronic medical records is a major step for an assisted living or memory care community. In addition to the dollar cost of investing in new software, it takes time to convert records and train staff in new policies and best practices.
When you’re already struggling to get everything done on a day-to-day basis, adding a major long-term project can feel daunting. But once you’ve converted to electronic health records, big rewards await. Chief among them is the ability for an EHR system to boost productivity for every person on your team.
Here’s a look at some of the specific workflow improvements you can expect from making the transition to EHR at your community.
- Reporting: Most people don’t get into caregiving because they love creating reports. But the reality of working as a CNA or nurse is that reporting matters – and it can be time consuming. Switching to an EHR system helps reduce time spent creating reports in two major ways: first, it lets your staff do charting electronically rather than on paper. With the right tools, this means CNAs take down ADLs just once and they’re in the system – no transferring from paper to computers at the end of a shift. Once in the system, the second benefit kicks in: EHRs can generate reports automatically. You can set up certain reports to go out to key stakeholders at whatever intervals you like, and you can also use the system to create custom reports if and when you want to investigate specific trends. The time saved creating reports actually offers a double benefit: besides easing the workload for CNAs and nursing directors, it also empowers community directors to see data more quickly and therefore make data-driven decisions more easily.
- Scheduling follow-up assessments after incidents: This is a specific example, but it speaks to a broader benefit you’ll enjoy when you convert to electronic health records: certain incidents can trigger automated follow-up events. So if a resident has a fall and you do an assessment, once you enter that in the EHR, it will automatically schedule a reminder for the follow-up assessment you’re required to do, based on rules you establish. You can set up other automated triggers, too, like a notification sent to a community director every time a resident has a fall. This reduces the time you and your team have to spend on administrative work while actually getting essential information to key stakeholders faster.
- Tracking ADL care: Tracking ADLs digitally offers more than the ability to report more efficiently. When you convert from paper to electronic records and therefore store all charting information in a central, digital location, you can identify residents’ changing needs much more quickly. If, for example, a resident requests help showering three times in a week but is only scheduled to receive this assistance once, you can easily see the switch and schedule an assessment to see what’s going on. Whether the resident has an acute infection or is declining in general ability, you can address the issue sooner rather than later. This can help avoid hospital visits and ensure that all residents are scheduled to receive (and pay for) an appropriate level of care so that the CNAs serving them aren’t overworked.
- Communicating with families: Imagine a world where a resident’s family member calls to ask about their loved one and you’re able to pull up the resident’s entire history in just a few clicks or swipes. On the screen in front of you, you have information not only about their latest vital stats but also about which activities they’ve attended all week (thanks to the digital calendar built into the EHR), whether they’ve been at meals, and more. Even better: imagine that the family members of your residents could log on to a portal at any time of the day or night and get all this information themselves. Both scenarios can be a reality when you convert to electronic medical records. Having resident information so readily available can have a huge impact on an assisted living community. Transparency helps assure family members that their loved ones are getting the care and attention they need. Readily available information means handling calls from families is less stressful for staff, which can help improve the tone and quality of interactions, thus building stronger relationships and more satisfied resident families. Over time, this can translate to not only less CNA time answering questions but also longer resident stays.
- Chronic care documentation and communication: An effective chronic care plan requires coordination from multiple parties: the resident who requires care, staff members providing care, and families and members of your community’s leadership, who may be required to weigh in on decisions about care changes. Of course, effective coordination isn’t possible without good communication. When you switch to an EHR system, your ability to communicate instantly and clearly with multiple parties improves substantially. Electronic health records systems let you set up chronic care plans digitally and provide access to every stakeholder (residents, staff, family). This means everyone is on the same page about what care a resident is receiving, how that care is affecting their condition, and whether their needs are changing. Storing information in a single, cloud-based location means you don’t have to worry about post-it notes going missing or scrambling to get a new or substitute CNA up to date on a particular patient: instead, everything is in one place and everyone has access.
Do More in Less Time when You Convert to Electronic Health Records
Nobody enters caregiving with the hopes of being mired in paperwork. But at assisted living facilities that haven’t yet converted from paper to electronic records, that’s the reality a lot of CNAs and nursing directors have to deal with.
As you discuss with your community’s leadership the benefits of switching to EHR, be sure to consider the potential productivity wins you and your staff will enjoy. When you’re spending less time documenting all the care you give, you’ll have more time to actually provide that care – which, for most people in the industry, is the whole point.