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Technology advancements improve documentation and care

August 6, 2015
by Rebecca Ashling, MSN, RN
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Advances in technology have led to exciting possibilities for home health and hospice organizations striving to provide high-touch care. Clinicians are finding that adopting technology solutions into their caregiving routines enhances patient care through interactivity and at the same time improves business results by reducing costs and ensuring accuracy of documentation.

At Housecall Providers, our technology needs are unique. We are a home-based primary medical care practice offering transitional care and hospice services. Our hospice has a staff of 35 dedicated professionals comprised of nurses, social workers, chaplains, aides and volunteers. Technology, we have found, is playing a large part in helping us take patient care to the next level.

We initially moved from paper to laptop-based electronic documentation software. While laptops made us more efficient, we wanted to provide even better care through integrating tablets into our process.

For example, our previous browser-based software required an Internet connection to work, which was not always available in our patients’ homes. When staff could connect, the solution was often slow and cumbersome. Also, the hardware was bulky and created physical barriers between caregivers and patients, which could negatively impact patient-centered care. The result: caregivers began to limit their use of the technology during patient visits and would document offsite during their personal time, which decreased job satisfaction and frequently made information less accurate as staff were working from memory or transcribing hand-written notes. Added to these drawbacks was that the hardware equipment and software licensing were expensive. In the end, the laptop-based solution was costly and not as efficient as what we’d hoped—driving us to find a different option for supporting and documenting in-home patient care.

By switching to the Brightree Hospice solution on the iPad, our clinicians were given the ability to work in an untethered environment and document in real-time without feeling that they were negatively impacting the patient experience. This elevated the level of care we were able to offer, while also increasing efficiency.

Embracing POC technology

By using the iPad-based solution at the point of care, we have seen several benefits. For example, the small, user-friendly design lets clinicians reference the information accessible in the iPad-based solution during patient visits without feeling disruptive. In addition, they are able to easily navigate screens and capture details in real time, which has helped improve documentation accuracy by as much as 60 percent.

Our clinicians are also able to access complete patient records when and where they need them so they can quickly respond to patient or family caregiver requests or needs. As a result of not requiring an Internet connection to access charts, patient records can also be shared with any authorized staff member regardless of his or her location. For example, in an emergency when a patient’s clinician is not available, an on-call clinician can access the EHR and make well-informed care decisions without having previously interacted with the patient. Particularly in life and death scenarios, being armed with this real-time information can be a huge advantage for clinicians.

There have also been financial benefits to documenting with Brightree’s iPad-based solution. For example, technology and hardware expenses have dropped by as much as 70 percent since we made the switch from laptops. As a result, we are able to equip our entire hospice staff with the POC solution on iPads.

Training has also been minimal and we’ve discovered that staff have quickly picked up how to navigate the solution as a documentation tool. With clinicians having immediate access to essential information while spending less time on documentation, they are able to dedicate more time to engaging patients and delivering compassionate care. Capturing onsite information also helps staff sustain a steady work–life balance, decreasing chances of burnout and improving job satisfaction.

Cutting-edge care with a personal touch

Driven by the goal to always be providing the best possible patient care, technology solutions such as Brightree’s POC solution have enabled us to continually improve results. By adopting solutions that enable high connectivity, accessibility and foster engaged relationships between patients and clinicians, home health and hospice organizations are able to continue to grow and raise the bar for excellent care.

Rebecca Ashling, MSN, RN, is hospice program director at Housecall Providers in Portland, Oregon.