The Benefits of EHR for Assisted Living and Memory Care Communities
Updated 12.4.20 from a post originally published 3.9.18.
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. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, EHRs have proven to be a valuable tool for nurses navigating care through lockdowns and resident illnesses.
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
Strong communication with senior living residents’ families has always been important. But in 2020, communication has gone from “nice to have” to “need to have.”
Early in the pandemic, many loved ones of residents worried when they hadn’t heard any updates from the community about the status of COVID-19 while they were unable to visit. If they were notified that their family member tested positive for COVID-19, some waited anxiously for days before hearing another update.
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. This allows staff to efficiently send frequent updates to families, which is nice to have during normal times, and critical during an emergency like COVID-19.
But EHRs go beyond communication about resident health. 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: CNAs 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.