Walk Before You Run—Part 3: Caring for the Future: Where will EHR and Technology Take Us?

By Sally Webb, RN, RAC-CT, CEAL
Senior Manager, Clinical Implementation

(If you missed Part 1 of this article, please click here.)
(If you missed Part 2 of this article, please click here.)

Preparing for the future

With an emerging trend dubbed “The Silver Tsunami,” it is estimated that one-fifth of the U.S. population will be 65 or older by 2030. We know people are living longer. Long-term care (LTC) providers also know that new residents often present with a higher level of acuity than they did ten years ago.  A higher acuity resident often means higher costs and more integrated care–requiring different experts on the care team to manage the needs of this resident. In this capacity, technology becomes a critical ingredient to the success of any organization providing senior care services.

Top considerations when beginning to leverage technology

So, where do providers start?  That’s a great question, but not always one with the most clear cut answer. Historically, providers may not have had a complete view of a resident’s medical history upon admission. Residents arriving from the hospital often came with little or no documentation, requiring nurses and physicians to “reinvent the care wheel,” so to speak.  Ideally, the necessary care information should be available upon admission. Unfortunately, we know this is not the norm, it’s the exception. Often, caregivers are left to navigate the care of residents with very little history—let alone a documentation of that history. 

An EHR serves as a great starting point. Providers need to look for a vendor with an offering that will help with the communication of care.  There are a number of critical questions that should be asked during the process of evaluating technology solutions: 

Does the vendor help your organization securely exchange information with clinicians, hospitals, and other members of the healthcare community? 

Does the technology you use create a complete profile of each resident?

Which other aspects of care can be seamlessly integrated into the EHR?

Is there a tool for exchanging data with labs and pharmacies?  

Will the vendor grow with the organization, and keep up with the constant changes in regulations?

Technology that supports a provider’s ability to interact and respond across the healthcare continuum will play a critical role in in how we provide care in the future.


The future starts today

Playing phone tag with a clinician is frustrating and wastes valuable nursing time.  Researchers with the University of Missouri’s Sinclair School of Nursing found that clinical staff, on average, spend up to two hours per day making calls to clarify medication orders. In addition, it often takes providers an hour to respond to a voicemail, compared to a 20-minute response time to a text message.

Unfortunately, to save time and improve efficiency, clinicians have resorted to non-secure text messaging on their personal mobile devices, creating a significant risk for the provider. Hefty fines and jail time are not worth it!  Technology is available today to protect care providers and reduce risk. 

Secure, HIPAA-compliant texting reduces risk by enabling providers to communicate and collaborate with one another, regardless of location.  It also helps reduce potential errors associated with manual paperwork. Other forms of secure communication are also emerging, which allow EHR systems to communicate with other care systems outside of their network, helping to facilitate information exchange with a greater network of providers. 

Technology is a key element to sustainability

As LTC organizations begin to deal with the pending demographic shift in the elderly population, the integration of technology is absolutely required.  The days of technology being “nice to have” are long gone.  Technology supports us.  Technology sustains our quality and operational objectives.  Technology is not just a supporting function of senior care, it’s a driver. 


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About the Author

Sally Webb, RN, RAC-CT
CEAL Senior Manager, Clinical Implementation

Sally Webb is a registered nurse with 30 years of diverse nursing experience.  During her career, Sally has held several nursing positions within long term care, including MDS coordinator, DON, ADON, software trainer and corporate nurse manager. 

As the Senior Manager of Clinical Implementations, Sally oversees all clinical training for PointClickCare.  She is a member of the American Nurses Association, American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination and has recently earned her CEAL certification. 


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