The senior living industry has been met with a host of technology solutions that help not only drive efficiencies from a business and operations standpoint, but improve clinical outcomes and processes.
From addressing the changing needs of assisted living residents to recording clinical information following exams and assessments, senior living providers are adopting technology solutions on a widespread basis. And it means IT providers and clinicians are working in tandem for the best outcomes under the rules that apply—and to ensure the data remains safe.
“As technology trends are moving, any industry, but specifically health care, has to adapt and adjust to those trends,” says Amy Jeffs, vice president of strategic programs at Status Solutions.
Status Solutions’ situational awareness software can be integrated with electronic health records and electronic medical records systems as a rising number of senior living providers are going electronic.
But in the midst of dealing with sensitive resident information, IT staffs concerned with issues like security and technology best practices must work together with clinical staffs to use the always-improving technology tools toward better resident outcomes. It means not only collaborating, but training accordingly.
Training for Tech
The training component comes into play from the onset of any new technology implementation, Jeffs says. “From a collaboration standpoint, if you have more stakeholders involved early on, that will help make any technology deployment more successful,” she says.
The different people who are interacting with the technology also will determine the type and level of training needed.
Take, for example, Senior Lifestyle Corp., which operates 75 assisted living communities nationwide, in addition to its independent living properties and memory care operations.
The company has partnered with third-party vendor RealPage Senior Living to provide clinical data management across its assisted living communities, which the company rolled out in 2012 in a series of installations.
“We knew from understanding how clinicians—and those from nurses to people doing data entry—think about this data, so we put into place training systems that addressed each person’s learning style,” says Patricia Foran, vice president of clinical services for the company.
For Senior Lifestyle Corp. there is initial “self-study” web-based training that clinicians can access remotely, as well as a phase 2 of the training that is a live, web-based course they take on-site.
“Thinking through how clinical people process information was very important,” Foran says, adding that preparing not just the staff but also the equipment was a crucial component of bridging the gap between just a handful of in-house IT staff and improving clinical outcomes.
“The IT team helps us understand what a community is going to need if we select a certain application, from a hardware, software, and Internet perspective,” she says.
Improving outcomes—and security
An effective collaboration among not just clinicians and technology teams, but also including management and operations, has proven successful in many senior living applications when it comes to taking health records online and updating them with ongoing resident assessments.
“Taking those two worlds [of technology and clinicians], along with operations and administration, is forcing the clinician side and IT side to come to the table and look at it from a feasibility standpoint,” Foran says. “It all comes down to: What is the level of care we need to provide and what do we need to deliver?”
The solutions can be costly, but they are gaining a presence among communities that offer clinical services.
In a 2012 survey of senior living providers, close to half reported having made some investment in EHRs with more than 70% saying they planned to increase their investment in the coming year.
But collecting and storing EHRs also requires an eye toward data security with providers avoiding the situation Lutheran Social Services of South Central Pennsylvania faced earlier this year when it informed 7,300 current and former senior residents of a data breach that was discovered due to malware within its systems.
Some providers, such as Brookdale Senior Living, have formed partnerships with vendors for their data security capabilities. Brookdale partnered recently with provider SOTI to utilize its MobiControl solution for securing resident records via smartphones.
“With the mobility of the Samsung GALAXY Tab and smartphone reinforced by SOTI MobiControl, more than 3,000 medical staff at Brookdale Senior Living across the country can safely access and update medical records from remote sites in real time, ensuring sensitive resident data is safe-guarded at all times,” said Dan Crangle, Brookdale director of telecommunications in response to a case study.
With the proper collaboration, the outcomes can be realized from saving paper to saving time and securing data, even with different partners bringing different requirements and success metrics.
“All stakeholders have their list of ‘must haves,’” Jeffs says. “While clinicians are looking for resident outcomes, IT is looking to uphold standards and leverage best practices.”
The good news: IT providers are aware of this in light of security requirements and addressing both sets of needs, she says.
“Data security in the healthcare environment is important and should be taken seriously, as is the criticality of superior care. It’s a juggling act, but the good news, is both can be addressed.”
Written by Elizabeth Ecker
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 www.alfa.org.