Assisted Living Providers Improving Partnership Profiles With Electronic Records

Many assisted living residents are there because they need help managing their medications, and some senior living providers are moving toward electronic recordkeeping for medication administration in an effort to become more efficient and improve their care continuum partnership profile.

For one community, going electronic meant seeing its annual medication errors drop by more than 90%.

Electronic records system vendors and a director of clinical services for a senior living community weighed in on transitioning to and using electronic Medication Administration Records (eMARs) during a session at ALFA’s Community 2012 event in Dallas.


There are certainly considerations and potential hurdles to face, but the outcome was ultimately “worth it,” they say. 

Some healthcare reform goals include reducing paperwork, administrative costs, and perhaps most importantly, hospital readmissions, and using eMARs can help with this, said Carolyn Dibert, RN, Director of Clinical Services at Country Meadows Retirement Communities.

From a nurse’s perspective, electronic recordkeeping can also reduce medical errors and improve quality of care, she added. 


As assisted living providers begin partnering with hospitals and other care providers along the continuum, it will become more and more important to be able to provide data, or “actual, quantitative evidence” to prove they’re providing quality care.

“Using electronic mediums to quantify and track what we do, and be able to share comprehensive and cohesive reporting, sets us up to be providers of choice,” said Dibert. 

When Country Meadows began looking into implementing an eMAR system a couple of years ago, it wanted three things: to decrease medication errors and improve both medication management and Quality Measures monitoring.

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Eighteen months after implementation, Dibert says Country Meadows communities saw significant improvement in all three areas, with “100%” positive feedback from practitioners and users of the system.

In fact, after an approximate study of medication errors in six out of Country Meadows’ 11 communities (located in Pennsylvania and Maryland), Dibert saw the number of errors decrease from about 212 in 2010, to just 20 in 2011.

Each company considering a transition into electronic recordkeeping needs to figure out what it is that they’re looking for as they begin shopping around, the RN advised.

Things to consider:

  • Using eMARs requires having computers on each medication cart—primary and backup.
  • What are the community’s wireless capabilities, if choosing an Internet-based (versus server-based) system? Are there “dead zones”?
  • Is it possible to customize a program to fit a particular community?
  • Who will provide both initial and ongoing training (for new hires or software updates)?

Dibert recommends establishing a checklist of questions to consider when speaking with vendors. That’s a smart idea, agreed representatives from software company Yardi, which offers a web-based senior housing administrative platform with a resident management component. 

When choosing a platform, think about system reliability—how long has it been in use?—along with how quickly it can be implemented, the extent of its mobile access (for tablets or smartphones, for example) and its remote reporting capabilities, said J.R. Southerland, a regional sales executive at Yardi. 

Once a system is chosen, there are still more things to consider and do in the days, weeks, and months prior to implementation and roll-out. 

This can include notifying residents and their families of the new system; sending courtesy letters to physicians to inform them of the switch from paper records to eMARs, and meeting with the pharmaceutical partner to confirm the process for entering orders into eMAR database, as they must have a list of each resident’s medications.

Pharmacy involvement is crucial, Southerland emphasized, and it’s important for communities to set expectations and policies with their pharmaceutical partners.

“eMARS are not plug and play,” the Yardi representative cautioned the session’s attendees, adding that there needs to be buy-in to the system from the administration down to those who will use it on a daily basis. “The eMAR is an amazing tool, but if you’re not using it properly it’s not going to do what it was intended to do.”

An eMAR is a tool, agreed Dibert, and tools are only as good as the people using them, so make sure staff understand the goals associated with implementing a system. 

Ultimately, “It’s been a big help to us,” said Dibert of Country Meadows’ experience. “It’s worth it.”

Written by Alyssa Gerace

This article is sponsored by the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) as part of its efforts to advance excellence and explore topics impacting the future of senior living. For more information about ALFA, visit

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