Senior living centers find new benefits in adopting electronic records

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Senior Housing Companies, which offers assisted living services and healthcare to individuals living in retirement communities, was dependent upon manual paper processing to manage its 17 senior living communities in Iowa. A few years ago, when Joy Laudick joined the organization as its director of clinical management, she knew it was needed to transition to electronic systems.

“Our processes were not standardized,” she recalls. “We wanted to have a single electronic health record along with revenue cycle management and customer relationship management software.”

Laudick came to Senior Housing Companies with previous experience in skilled living settings that used the PointClickCare electronic health record that includes revenue cycle management and customer relationship management software, so the company eventually decided to use the vendor to support senior living operations. The organization today comprises 25 living centers in Iowa, with four more centers opening soon.

Adopting electronic information systems was a big change for employees, especially the nurses, Laudick says. “Moving from paper to electronic is a huge system change for nurses. We knew we had to have a lot of handholding, assess each community and then help them go live.”

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Younger nurses more easily adapted to electronic systems. Older staff members over time grew to understand that automated information systems enabled them to spend more time with residents and less time on paperwork.

The EHR software also is facilitating the process of reporting patient incidents, such as a patient fall, to the Iowa Department of Public Health. In the past, when an incident occurred, a nurse would read to Laudick her report on the incident, and Laudick would seek more information to determine if the incident is reportable. Now, EHR data that includes information on state reporting criteria is used to assess if a report should be reported to state agencies.

“Overall, about 10 percent of incidents are reportable, but we tend to over-report anything questionable,” she says. Over-reporting is not difficult do when supporting data is present and reduces follow-up questions coming from the state. “PointClickCare has allowed me to write better reports,” she adds.

Every two years, Senior Housing Companies must recertify its communities with the state, and data from the EHR, revenue cycle and customer relationship management software has eased the process, according to Laudick. “We have decreased our regulatory inefficiencies by two-thirds.”

More recently, the organization has been using tools from the vendor to improve the accuracy of charges for services rendered to residents. “In senior living, we use levels of care,” she explains. “One more care service might move a resident into a new care level. I can audit a resident chart, assess the service plan that the resident wants as well as the costs. This results in happier residents and families.”

In another recent initiative, PointClickCare worked with Senior Housing Communities to integrate with local pharmacies that now enter residents’ medications into the pharmacy systems. Previously, each nurse did the task manually.

The vendor also brought in software that walks nurses through tasks and gives them immediate feedback that they completed all of their assignments, which raised nurse morale and also can aid in retaining staff, Laudick notes.

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