Upgrading information technology (IT) infrastructure to handle long-term care’s vastly growing needs for data exchange, wireless capabilities and resident safety is always a challenge. But for a senior care provider chain that employs 20,000 caregivers across 21 states, the stakes for competitive edge can surge.
Long-Term Living Editor-in-Chief Pamela Tabar spoke with Mark Crandall, CIO of Consulate Health Care, the largest senior care provider in Florida, about the tasks entailed in providing senior care organizations with the technology they need to stay up to speed and excel in service delivery.
How has IT changed your organization’s business?
The building infrastructure was not cabled for the type of data access and data throughput that were being asked to perform from an IT’s perspective 30 years ago. I mean, none of the things that we’re doing now were really thought of 30 years ago.
Things could not have changed more, specifically in the last five years. The conversation has completely shifted, and we have three core IT drivers now: improved coordination, ensuring better clinical outcomes and the protection of our patients’ health information.
It’s a business imperative to have a secure platform that is seamless for the physicians that do rounds in our care centers, and they need to have some of the very same access to the data that our employees in the building do. So, it’s not a matter of “if” we need this technology, it’s about how soon can we get this technology—that’s been a big change over the last few years.
Is it just about giving caregivers the IT they need?
Caregivers need the tools in their hands that can deliver the best care at the beside. In order to do that, you think of things like electronic health records and physician engagement portals that are on an iPad, and things like telehealth, which is something that we’re pushing very quickly as pilots in our care centers. Things that are going to allow our practitioners to deliver the care at the bedside, reducing unnecessary trips back to the hospital.
If we are to be the best partner for our hospitals and for the other providers in continuing care, we have to be absolutely thinking about the same things, the same metrics. For us, we’ve got to look at all our different markets and figure out what relationships need to be built in order to be able to share data seamlessly from one provider to the next, throughout that entire continuing care chain. So, it’s not just an IT initiative; it’s about the entire company.
As a CIO, how do you balance the benefits and risks of the wireless world?
We have to build that infrastructure anyway, so I want to make sure that we provide a level of access that’s going to be acceptable to our patients and their families, so wireless is something that is available and it’s a given. We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got the security and the availability in our infrastructure. But also we have to listen to our operations partners and to our caregivers. That’s really where we stand, because it’s often thought that IT is just a commodity.
What’s next in the role of IT in delivering quality care?
Our job is to provide the technology and tools that allow our caregivers to provide the care that just was not possible 10 years ago, and that’s where we lean heavily on our partners in the electronic health record space to make sure that we know where they’re looking in the near to midterm of things, because that’s going to be absolutely crucial for us [as providers] to have an advantage in giving that great care. But, how can we translate the data that we have to collect anyway into a story that can be shared, so that the son or daughter of one of the moms that we’re taking care of doesn’t have to make a call to [the site] to find out, “How is mom doing today? Is she eating all the food that she’s been offered?” That’s potential, and more.