EHRs (Electronic Health Records) have been widely adopted in healthcare. The popularity and impact of electronic health records have progressed so much that in 2019, approximately 72 percent of office-based physicians and a further 96 percent of non-federal acute care hospitals adopted EHR.
This trend can be attributed to the known improvement in providing care that comes with using EHRs. A national survey of doctors shows that 75 percent of providers report that their long term care EHR software system allows them to deliver better patient care, improve the diagnosis of diseases, and reduce medical errors.
But not all EHR systems are equal in that regard. In fact, the EHR that an organization selects can have a big impact on care and, in turn, employee satisfaction. A recent study conducted by KLAS Research suggests a direct correlation between the EHR usability experience and clinician turnover. In recent times, clinician turnover has increased dramatically during the pandemic, which has resulted in a national staffing crisis and an increase in staffing costs due to the additional money spent on hiring and training new staff.
The study by KLAS mentioned that nurses are more likely to leave their organizations than other healthcare workers due to:
- Additional strain caused by the pandemic and the rise of acute cases
- Negative associations between healthcare and nursing
- Internal organizational considerations, such as ineffective teamwork, a lack of autonomy, and distrust in the organization and leadership
All of these issues are amplified by software that is not intuitive or efficient, which then leads to burnout. Studies show that the nursing profession has one of the highest burnout rates of all industries. Before the pandemic, nursing burnout clocked in at approximately 40 percent. However, after the pandemic, the figure increased to 70 percent. These figures are particularly worrying because nursing burnout is associated with lower job performance, incomplete patient care duties, and poorer patient satisfaction. This impacts patient outcomes, mortality rates, and nursing staff turnover.
A recent example of such nursing burnout is the Chatuge Regional Nursing Home, which began to “hemorrhage” nurses on account of its EHR, Cerner. Med passes were a long and tedious process to the point that nurses began writing on paper again and then scanning the documentation into the system. “Nurses felt like they couldn’t give the kind of care they wanted or have the meaningful interactions that attracted them to long-term care in the first place,” said their clinical IT specialist Brian Free. And so, they requested to be moved elsewhere.
Things changed when the Chatuge Regional Nursing Home implemented a new EHR, one that was specifically designed for long term care, and thus far more efficient. “Within the first six months [of moving to Experience Care], we were able to bring back 25 to 30 percent of the nurses who had transitioned to acute care, all just because of our new EHR system,” Free said.
How Do Electronic Health Records Improve Patient Care?
When exploring the necessity of long term care EHR software systems and the impact of electronic health records, a commonly asked question is how do electronic health records improve patient care? The answer lies in the work satisfaction levels of the nurses, clinicians, and other support staff who care for the residents.
Before the introduction of EHRs, healthcare providers used paper documentation to record and track a patient’s medical history. This resulted in inaccurate patient data and extra administrative work due to missing or illegible handwritten notes and inefficient documentation processes.
Today’s intuitive EHRs help teams overcome the challenges associated with paper documentation. For instance, Aiysha Bradley, an MDS nurse from the Care Centers in Johnson City, Tennessee, explained that before her facility adopted a long term care EHR software system, “They had to push aside some of their daily work” because of the excessive amount of paperwork. However, since adopting an efficient long term care software system, her staff now saves up to three hours on daily administrative duties, which amounts to over five hundred hours annually.
Bradley also found that teams can provide better resident care because they can “focus on getting out in the hall with the residents and being more hands-on.” She noted an improvement in the continuum of patient care because she could communicate with physicians quickly and effectively.
Handheld devices, like tablets, that are synced with long term care EHRs have played a significant factor in improving communication between physicians and other caregivers because physicians are not required to be physically present in facilities. Physicians can access resident care plans via the care plan system, whenever and wherever they are. Therefore, if any problems occur on the resident’s personalized dashboard, all authorized personnel can be notified quickly and easily.
Additionally, long term care EHR software systems improve communication between external healthcare providers. Patients are sometimes regularly transferred between healthcare providers. When paper documentation was in use, it was not uncommon for a physician to receive a patient with missing information on their medical history. This resulted in compromised patient care leading to medical errors and poor patient outcomes.
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3 Ways EHR and Patient Safety are Interconnected
Now that we have established how electronic health records improve patient care, we will mention three ways that EHR and patient safety are connected.
1. Accessible Electronic Data
One of the significant advantages of long term care EHRs is the ability to store vast amounts of resident data electronically. Having electronic data supports caregivers in numerous ways. For instance, it allows authorized personnel to access resident data from multiple locations and at different times.
Furthermore, caregivers can also access and enter real-time updates into a resident’s care plan at the point of care via handheld devices. This is especially important because it allows caregivers to see a resident’s complete medical history via the electronic Kardex dashboard. In the case of life-threatening emergencies — treatment decisions can be made promptly and with accuracy, thus avoiding unnecessary medical errors.
2. Improved Communication
Another way EHR impacts patient safety is the improved communication between caregivers and residents. Efficient long term care EHR software systems allow caregivers to track resident care and treatments easily due to the ease of accessibility via the medical devices.
Meanwhile, some web-based nursing home software systems have a built-in family portal that allows facilities to send and receive real-time messages and notifications from residents and their families. This helpful function improves patient safety and the quality of care as documents and files—such as medical records, progress notes, medications, and treatment results—can be easily shared during a resident’s stay in a facility.
One of the biggest problems plaguing long term care is the staffing crisis and, consequently, the money and time needed to hire and train new staff. As a result, many facilities turn to agency staff to supplement their workforce. When an agency nurse covers shifts in a facility, though, they must learn its procedures and understand how its long term care EHR software works. This can pose problems because of the time needed to train the agency nurses.
State-of-the-art long term care software will include efficient free online training programs designed to familiarize quickly and train staff. Mary Burkurt, an RN RAC-CTA at St. Mary’s Home for the Aged, found that one program, LevelUp, enabled agency nurses to promptly pick up the fundamentals of their EHR software system within half an hour. “That might not seem like a lot, but when you have a half an hour times five people that come in each week, that makes up some time, especially when you have three agency people coming in at the same time,” she said.
Furthermore, EHR training improves patient safety, as the staff better understands how to navigate the care plan software. Erin Blunt, a clinical informatics specialist at Providence Home and Community Care, commented that when their nurses and CNAs have a better understanding of “where they are (in the EHR), what’s required, and how to double-check that they get their work done” they better understand “what to do, when to do it, and how to complete important tasks before they finish.” Having an easy-to-train EHR software system has helped Blunt’s team improve compliance by 40 percent.
The Impact of Electronic Health Records in Long Term Care
The massive impact of electronic health records in long term care facilities is on account of the efficiency and accuracy these systems provide; an efficient care plan software streamlines workflow processes, improves accuracy, and increases employee satisfaction. These factors help to retain existing staff because they have higher job satisfaction.
Long term care EHR systems also benefit the residents, because the technology allows caregivers to improve the quality of care with more personalized treatment and time-saving efficiency processes. This will enable nurses to spend more time with the residents and enhance the resident experience.
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