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The long term care industry is evolving quickly, and skilled nursing facilities are no exception. With the implementation of a successful electronic health record (EHR) software system, skilled nursing facilities will be able to do more than ever before. They will have access to real-time data that can help them make decisions in seconds rather than hours or days.

In this article on EHR, we will discuss what the software does, the value it adds to LTC facilities, the features it must include, and the optional features that may or may not be appropriate for your facility. You will then be able to find the right solution for your needs.

Overview Of SNF Software

SNF software (or EHR) has become an essential part of any skilled nursing facility. This is because it helps in scheduling, tracking inventory, and assessing resident care plans, which can lead to better business decision-making. The software also provides several benefits for residents, like reducing anxiety that could come from forgetting information about their care plan or medication order. These systems help health care facilities automate clinical, financial, and organizational activities to streamline workflows and operate more efficiently.

EHR software provides the necessary tools for staff members at long term care facilities to:

  • Document important resident information, including the care delivered by a long-term care facility
  • Monitor their progress, concerning their care plan
  • Protect themselves by documenting compliance and regulatory requirements
  • Communicate with other healthcare providers about treatment plans, including Medicaid and Medicare

While the use of EHRs in LTC was initially low when compared with hospitals and acute care, an increasing number of nursing homes are noticing its advantages. At the time of a 2017 study by the Department of Health & Human Services, 66 percent of skilled nursing facilities had embraced this technology.

Why LTC Facilities Invest in EHRs

Whether or not you should invest in EHR software will depend on the specific needs of your LTC facility.

LTC experts who choose to invest in an EHR do so because it:

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  • Improves the quality and safety of resident care
  • Decreases medical errors by 30% or more with a well-implemented EHR system. In fact, according to HHS estimates there are over 450 000 preventable deaths due to mistakes in hospitals every year.
  • Reduces medication errors by 67%. When using an electronic prescribing system, healthcare professionals are less likely to make mistakes with resident information, dosage calculations, and drug interactions.
  • Improves care for residents by giving them more control over their medical records and privacy; knowing that they can always have access to their health data will help alleviate concerns about the continuity of care when transitioning between facilities or providers.
  • Organizes and tracks care plans, improving staff efficiency and resident outcomes.
  • Improves productivity by reducing paperwork, freeing up time for healthcare professionals to spend with residents.

However, it can be expensive to make the switch, and choosing a system that is too complicated or does not meet your needs will result in frustration for everyone involved.

Selecting The Right Nursing Home Software

Choosing the right EHR means taking into consideration a facility’s size and resident population. That means you must conduct a thorough evaluation of your facility before deciding. If, for instance, you have managed care contracts with private payers or Medicare/Medicaid, then electronic claims submission will be important to you. Regardless of the particularities of your facility, there are certain must-have features that you will need no matter the software you select.

Must-Have Features

Certain features are necessary because they fulfill the reasons for implementing an SNF software program, namely that it will improve residents’ safety, quality outcomes, efficiency, and profitability at your LTC facility.

Here are the features that any EHR software must have:

EHR must-have features

  • Minimum Data Set: MDS helps with observing the federally-mandated process for clinical assessment of residents. It also provides a comprehensive assessment of each resident’s functional capabilities and helps nursing home and SNF staff identify health problems.
  • Clinical eMAR and eTAR: The EHR you select should allow you to manage both electronic medication administration records (eMAR) and electronic treatment administration records (eTAR).
  • Cloud-Based Hosting: This is a feature that makes budgeting more efficient and provides cost savings from day one. It has the added benefit of the support of an IT team that manages updates and upgrades as appropriate.
  • Point of Care Charting: POC allows nurses to access residents’ records. With POC, nurses can also view or modify any aspect of a resident’s record in his or her presence instead of having to wait to enter that information later. POC solutions also help with speed and eliminate the need for entering information more than once. They also allow quick, accurate access to residents’ health status information.
  • Admit Discharge Transfer: ADT centralizes and tracks resident and census information needed for billing so you have all the demographic information of your residents in one place.
  • Resident Scheduling: This allows staff to schedule and modify medical appointments for residents. It also allows nurses to more quickly search and find scheduled appointments.
  • Billing/Revenue Cycle Management: This optimizes workflows and facilitates seamless integrations. Using this tool will maximize your reimbursements and allow for more time to be spent tending to residents.
  • Compliance with Meaningful Use Certified/ICD-10: Meaningful Use standards determine whether an EHR system achieves its purpose of being communicative and effective. If the system you choose falls short and you move forward with the attestation process, you might end up facing reimbursement penalties.
  • Implementation and Training: This process can take anywhere from a few months to a year. So it’s important to know what your vendor’s plan is for getting your system up and running. The best software programs offer consulting and staff training to make sure everyone in your practice is up to speed with the implementation of your new EHR.

Now that you know the checklist of what must be included in your electronic health records software, let’s take a look at some innovative features that provide added benefits.

Added Features That Will Give Your Facility An Edge

In the near future, EHRs will improve how staffing, scheduling, and family communications are handled. They will also design resident-centered care that engages the unique needs and differences between residents. Innovations in both software and integration are already updating features and elevating the standard of care.

Here are some of the latest improvements to EHRs:

  • Interoperability: Some systems are now able to integrate with other hospitals and long term care facilities.
  • Friendlier resident portal: They allow easy data access means for residents and family members.
  • Mobile-friendly: This key tool allows for the rapid accessing of electronic medical records anywhere in the facility and pushes updates from physicians on residents’ conditions in real-time.

Long term care technologies are constantly evolving to provide better solutions for facilities, their staff, and residents.

The KPI Dashboard

Perhaps the most significant development in EHR is a state-of-the-art dashboard for key performance indicators (KPIs), which measure successful implementation. This dashboard monitors and measures the success of EHR deployment. Experience Care offers a built-in clinical dashboard that allows you to view KPIs at a glance and manage the care of each resident as well the overall performance of your facility.

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The Experience Care dashboard is delivered as part of NetSolutions ADT and Clinical applications. In his 17 years of experience as a director of nursing and coordinating EHRs, Charles Oliver learned how essential this dashboard is in improving efficiency. “For my first year and a half or so on the project, I didn’t have a dashboard. Instead, I would have to pull about 10 different reports to get ready to stand up,” he said. After implementing an EHR, he was printing less, collating information more efficiently, and finding data points with greater ease. “You can actually have your dashboard tell you how much weight a particular person has lost in a week or that they’ve only taken 50% of their meals or less,” he marveled.

The clinical dashboard comes with 34 pre-defined KPIs in the following categories: census, vitals, care delivery, documentation, and diagnoses. As soon as you install Experience Care’s EHR, some of the items you’ll see on your dashboard are: ADT, MDS, Care Plan, Physician Orders, eCharting with eMAR, Interdisciplinary Progress Notes (IPN), and User-Defined Assessment (UDA). These can then be modified to suit your needs. You can also define additional KPIs for your facility. Finally, the Drill-down details provide actionable information and reporting.

An Investment in More Than Technology

Every EHR gives you a technical advantage. But some go beyond and help you elevate your standing in the LTC industry. Experience Care is bringing more to LTC facilities than just software improvements.

In addition to the most advanced MDS, POC, and ADT, Experience Care offers its users:

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  • Community: Experience Care has a community of peers that help you draw a roadmap for your facility’s growth. You can join our free online webinars and conferences, which provide one-on-one assistance for the rollout process. We maintain that building relationships with like-minded professionals striving for the same goals will only make the future of LTC brighter. Membership in these groups will not just keep you informed on the industry trends and news but will also give you ideas for how to maximize your EHR software.
  • Training: Experience Care’s online training programs for employees, LevelUp, ensures that all staff members gain competency in using its software and in accessing customer complaints, messages, and other notifications from supervisors. The training programs are specially customized for each role and designed to teach employees the specific skills they need to be part of a successful team.
  • Insightful case studies of leaders in LTC: In each episode of the LTC Heroes podcast, host Peter Murphy Lewis conducts interviews ranging from 25 to 40 minutes with LTC professionals. Successful leaders share their actionable advice for how to improve facilities. These lively conversations also highlight the successes and failures of long term care professionals, valuable lessons for those looking to take the next step in the industry.

For more about the unique features of Experience Care, click here.

Now that you know what to look for in a skilled nursing facility software, you’re ready to select the software and options that make sense for your facility.

Selecting The Right Plan for Your Budget

The cost of EHR systems is extremely variable based on the features you choose, the vendor, and the number of providers in your practice. Some providers can offer a complete EHR system with minimal upfront cost or no up-front costs at all. Others may require you to purchase the software and hardware outright, which can be prohibitively expensive for some practices. Many skilled nursing facility providers will find that they need more than one type of software to cover all of their needs.

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Whatever EHR you select should include the must-have features above. Beyond those, though, there is a decision to be made. Which tools would you require at your facility? And would they improve your efficiency and profitability?

Pro Tip: When requesting an estimate, pay attention to the initial licensing or activation costs as well as the added cost of each additional component (such as a practice management system).

The cost of purchasing and installing an electronic health record (EHR) generally ranges from $15,000 to $70,000 per provider. Costs vary depending on whether you select on-site EHR deployment or web-based EHR deployment:

  • Web-based deployment, known as software as a service (SaaS), typically requires providers to pay a fixed monthly subscription cost.
  • On-site deployment typically requires providers to pay for ongoing costs to support and manage on-site data servers.

Profit Margins

To be cost-effective, investment in SNF software must be offset by long term benefits. You and your management team know the particularities of your facility best. Still, EHR can improve the profit margins at any facility by:

Reducing Errors: EHR will reduce the occurrence of mistakes in your nursing home’s financials. The resulting improvement in the quality of care means a higher customer satisfaction rate, more residents, and increased revenue.

Cutting Operational Costs: Instead of spending time on data entry, your staff can focus on care and be less shorthanded.

Increasing Resident Referrals: Electronic health record systems are equipped with marketing tools that increase referrals from residents and providers alike.

Other ways by which EHR can make your facility more efficient and successful include:

  • Reducing transcription costs
  • Reducing chart pull, storage, and re-filing costs
  • Improving documentation and automated coding capabilities
  • Elevating the standard of care through better disease management and resident education
  • Reducing the time and resources needed for manual charge entry, resulting in more accurate billing and fewer lost charges
  • Reducing charge lag days and vendor/insurance denials associated with late filing
  • Charging review edits alerting physicians if a test can be performed only at a certain frequency
  • Minimizing claim denials and lost charges related to Medicare procedures performed without Advance Beneficiary Notice by way of alerts that prompt providers to obtain ABN

Summary: SNF software will improve the efficiency and quality of care of your LTC facility. When selecting an EHR, make sure that it has the necessary features that will help you comply with federal regulations. You should then research the added features that could set you apart in the industry. Of course, not all EHRs are cost-effective for everyone. The EHR you select and the features you select should be based on your facility’s size, needs, and objectives.