Technology in Skilled Nursing Homes

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Technology Today

What is the role or importance of technology in healthcare?
Focusing in on the post-acute market, we are in a place where nurses are getting more and more scarce. If you look in these healthcare buildings, the busiest person in the place is the floor nurse. I always think back to my time in the army. We leveraged technology as a “force multiplier”. What I mean by that and translating it to technology in healthcare today, you apply technology and one nurse has the impact of several nurses in the same setting without technology.

I look at technology tools as a catalyst we can add to care teams that allow them to do their jobs and keep up with the never-ending (and ever-increasing) list of tasks, requests and call lights going off. For nursing homes, we’ve seen a lot of technology products that have come and gone. For technology to serve as a truly effective and viable tool it needs to be delivered through the Electronic Health Record (EHR).

Healthcare is moving toward the person-centered model, but if you look at the domestic (US) market from a macro level, you need a view of the population to fix the healthcare problem that we have today. Costs are incredibly high. Worldwide, care is better than ever but, the costs are out of scale and they are unsustainable.

There needs to be a population view of that person-centered care. What healthcare needs is a Health Information Exchange where we can see the details of a patient across settings. As an example, as you zoom out as a Case Manager at an insurance company, you can see what your population looks like and understand how to manage overall care to keep that as healthy a population as possible. With a national Health Information Exchange you could look at the entire US population and identify trends and potential corrective actions that could help fix our healthcare model.

Professionals tend to focus on technology improving outcomes. I think we’ve shown that technology can certainly aid in improving outcomes. How can technology improve the resident experience?
If you look back ten years ago, nursing was focused on getting the documentation done to support billing. And over the last several years, nursing has been focused on billing, med pass, new regulations, and so on. But, what hasn’t been as much of the focus is patient care. So, what we’d like to be able to do is provide nursing professionals the tools at bedside where they interact with the patient and their families. This technology still supports billing and regulatory requirements but, it also supports patient-centered care and an improved experience for the nurse, the family, and most importantly, the patient.

What should residents and families look for in technology in nursing homes specifically?
While there are online tools, before making any decision I would recommend a site visit. If I were a family looking for a nursing home for a loved one, I would go tour them first, if possible. When looking at technology in a nursing home, you can look for:

• General technology in the building – is the care team running around in chaos, with pens and paper? Do they have the equipment they need to care for patients? That could be bedside technology on wheels, tablets, and more.
• General repair – are there wires hanging from the ceiling? Is the paint peeling off the walls? Generally speaking, if a facility doesn’t have their building in order, their technology will be non-existent or outdated.
• Ask questions – ask the nursing home business development representative how their nursing home is taking better care of residents. Ask how they are using technology to provide better care, specifically.

Technology Tomorrow

What do you see happening in the future of technology in healthcare?
The technology used in the acute-care setting today will trickle out to skilled nursing, independent care and even home care. The scale factor is going to shrink until it will likely be on a phone or a device with a similar form factor. I’m already reading stories today of medical drones they are using to fly a defibrillator out to center field in baseball parks (Go Indians!). That could become commonplace in 15 years. I’m not a fan of sending a drone out with medical equipment to the middle of the country. But, that may be where we are headed.

We still see many skilled nursing facilities without any electronic way to chart or track resident progress. I think we will see the organizations that do not adopt technology begin to fade away. Unfortunately, that will likely translate to a lot of the “Mom and Pop” nursing facilities we have today becoming obsolete. These tend to be smaller facilities that are very genuine in their desire to help their residents and provide the same care they would to a family member. But, if they don’t adopt the technology, they aren’t going to survive.

About Tom Mohney
Tom is the Chief Information Officer for COMS Interactive. He is responsible for Information Technology Strategy, Corporate Infrastructure, and overall Software Development. Tom’s 20+ years of Information Technology experience have prepared him for the continuous improvement of the COMS Product Suite and the overall nursing experience. Tom is an ISACA Certified Information Security Manager (CISM).
To read a case study of Technology Complementing Care, click here.