In our last case study, we looked at how Illinois-based Grand Lifestyles managed its EHR implementation. Today, we’ll take a look at how Country Meadows, which includes 12 retirement communities in Maryland and Pennsylvania, handled the transition.

The goal is to give you an idea of what to expect if you’re considering converting paper records to electronic at your community.

If you’re more of an auditory learner, check out the second half of our webinar, which features Diana Ponterio, VP of Operations at Country Meadows, talking about the transition.

Why Convert to EHR?

There are plenty of reasons for an assisted living community to convert to electronic health records. From what we’ve seen, though, there’s usually one or two tipping-point factors that become too urgent to ignore and ultimately trigger the switch.

At Country Meadows, those factors were the residents themselves. Ponterio notes that, over several years, she and her colleagues noticed that residents were entering the community older, sicker, and more medically complex. Those trends weren’t restricted to Country Meadows, either: nationally, the average age at which people enter assisted living rose from 80 in 2001 to 87 in 2010.

Ponterio and her staff wanted to enhance the community’s capabilities to meet their residents’ increasing demands, so they developed a clinical program for nurses and developed a system that highlighted 13 warning signs for chronic conditions.

The real impact, they knew, would come from measuring the outcomes of these programs – and they also knew that that kind of measurement would be much easier with electronic records.

Get Buy-in from Every Team

One thing Ponterio emphasizes about Country Meadows’ transition to EHR is that they spent a lot of time on the front end, researching software and considering the needs of leaders within the community. They got requirements from…

  • IT leaders, who insisted that the software be cloud-based and meet existing IT requirements.
  • Nursing leaders, who emphasized the importance of user-friendliness for less-tech-savvy staff members. They asked about workflows and the way information was captured.
  • Community executive directors, who wanted to know about reporting capabilities and how easily the EHRs could illustrate trends that affected resident well-being and revenue.
  • The Chief Clinical Officer, who emphasized the need for a system that would let communities adhere to state-specific requirements.

Once they agreed on parameters for what the software had to do, they considered various platforms. Ultimately, they chose Caremerge (hooray!).

Create a Leadership Team

Once Country Meadows knew it would work with Caremerge, Ponterio built a core team to work closely with a team from Caremerge. The Country Meadows representatives helped the Caremerge reps understand the community and its residents so they could develop systems and processes that met its needs.

The Caremerge folks helped the Country Meadows team get to know the EHR. Together, they created a detailed manual that included step-by-step screenshots of how to use the software. They distributed this to leaders who would go from community to community to train staff on the software.

They brought community executive directors and nursing directors to the home office for “train the trainer” sessions, then returned them to their communities to train their staff.

Look for Onboarding Efficiencies

We won’t lie to you: converting from paper records to electronic takes time and effort. That’s why it’s important to find ways to make things move more quickly whenever possible. Ponterio’s team was able to do just that by uploading basic profile data from their billing database, which was already digitized.

Of course, that still required a two-week commitment for the team to clean data and add missing data, but when you’re making a big change like switching to EHR, even relatively small time savings help.

Launch One Campus at a Time

Country Meadows, remember, has 12 campuses. From the beginning of the search process to implementation, it took just 11 months to roll out the new EHR at every campus. But prior to rollout, the transition team had to…

  • Train personal care assistants to read profiles.
  • Train staff on conducting state assessments.
  • Verify data for 2800 residents.

Launching one campus at a time two main benefits. First, leaders can focus on ensuring success on a single location at a time, which means they’re better able to address any hiccups that occur and ensure that every campus remains compliant.

Second, staggering launches means you can apply everything you learn from one to the next, which should allow you to develop a system and rhythm as you proceed.

ROI Analysis

Obviously, there needs to be a significant ROI to justify a transition that takes more than a year, all told. So far, Ponterio reports that Country Meadows has seen several improvements in their communities, including…

  • Better charting. Caremerge makes it easier and faster for the nurses to track ADLs and other essential information. Even better, the nurses themselves love the system and say it’s intuitive and easy to use.
  • Better reports. Caremerge allows for instant report creation and distribution among stakeholders, which makes it easier for home-office staff and nurses to track a community’s overall health and spot trends. They’re also able to get more nuanced looks at admissions, discharges, and other important metrics.
  • Better outcome measurement. With an EHR in place, Country Meadows is now able to more accurately measure important metrics like hospitalizations, rehospitalizations, falls, and ER use. This can translate to better decision-making at all levels.
  • Improved regulatory compliance. This is especially helpful for communities that have residents in multiple states, as Country Meadows does. Caremerge helps staff keep track of deadlines and ensure that all paperwork is complete and filed when necessary.
  • Better coordination with referral sources. Now that Country Meadows has so much valuable data at its fingertips, it’s better able to show its referral sources how it’s performing. This has proven a big differentiator.

Is it Time for EHR Implementation at Your Community?

We’re big believers in learning from the experiences of others, especially with a process as important as converting to EHR at an assisted living community. If you’d like to find out more about whether your community might be ready to start its conversion journey, we’d love to chat!

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