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How senior living communities can partner with EHR services for greater efficiency

Posted by Dude Solutions Canada, Inc. | Monday, June 01, 2015

Senior living centers and long-term residential facilities are different from other types of buildings in that they have a unique directive: ensuring the comfort and safety of residents. There are many approaches that need to be taken to meet this goal, including efficiencies as it relates to maintenance and inventory to staffing and communication.

Unlike administrators of commercial or industrial facilities, managers of senior living centers have additional information to keep track of in the form of resident health records. As access to health care grows thanks to President Obama's health care law passed in 2010, more facility managers and administrators can benefit from a useful record-keeping tool - electronic health records. 

Electronic health records slow to catch on

Despite the usefulness of EHR systems and the benefits they can provide senior living facilities, many such buildings still have yet to take advantage of them. In fact, Modern Healthcare reported that as of 2010, only 17 percent of the nation's assisted living facilities were using EHR systems. This is particularly lopsided compared with rates of EHR adoption in hospitals, doctor's offices and clinics, which boast an 81 percent adoption rate, the source noted. This may be due in large part to the government subsidies that reimburse and incentivize clinical facilities for adopting EHR - subsidies that currently are not offered to residential facilities. 

What are the barriers?

While the advantage of EHR systems is clear, there are certain obstacles that must be overcome before such a system can be adopted. First, cost is of principal concern. Updating or overhauling an entire record-keeping infrastructure can be expensive, especially for senior living facilities that aren't corporately owned or are operated by nonprofits. Additionally, there are issues of legality and licensure to take into account. As Modern Healthcare reported, some practices are restricted in the types of information they are able to collect and store from residents, depending on the scope of the medical practice associated with the facility. 

Communication is key

Despite these challenges, long-term care facilities stand to gain quite a bit from EHR systems. Perhaps more than any other type of clinical setting, staff members at residential centers interact with and coordinate between a large team of care providers, from general practitioners to specialists. Information Week noted that around 50 percent of assisted living residents have at least three chronic conditions they are managing, all of which require careful coordination with a team of health care providers so that the information being received and acted on is accurate. 

Not only is effective communication important for regularly scheduled medical treatment, such as in the case of chronic conditions, but it can also be a life-saver in emergency situations and other acute care scenarios. For example, cleaning up record-keeping with EHR software may help clinics and residential facilities reduce readmission rates. Hospital readmissions are bad for everyone - clinics, residential facilities and patients alike - as they increase operating costs and can often reduce the quality of care that a senior receives. 

At the end of the day, any advanced processes that you invest in that will create efficiencies in places you didn’t have previously, will elevate your ability to increase resident satisfaction.