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Charting systems in nursing homes have progressed a long way since fax machines and paper documentation. Gone are the days of time-consuming and illegible handwritten notes. Today, we have long term care software with customizable care plans, automated financial processes, and built-in documentation management systems

Two physicians discussing the charting systems in nursing homes and whether they are appropriate.
Charting systems in nursing homes impact how facilities offer treatment.

But what is a charting system and how is it used in a nursing home? A charting system, also known as Electronic Medical Records (EMR), is the documentation of all resident records, from procedures, progress notes, medication, care summaries, transitions of care, and dietary requirements. Every step of a resident’s medical history is documented and stored via the care plan software so clinicians can create a personalized care plan for each resident and provide the best possible care. 

Charting systems in nursing homes are essential because they impact how facilities and caregivers offer treatment. The most efficient long term care software systems will include automated processes that enable facilities to better manage their finances and store resident data using a cloud-based architecture. 

Recently, nursing home EMRs have become even more popular because of their efficiency in workflow processes, enabling caregivers to provide better care. While paper documentation is still used in some long term care facilities, an increasing number of facilities have opted to implement long term care EHR software systems upon seeing the improvements in their documentation processes, communication, and accuracy in prescribing medication. To explain this trend, we will share the pros and cons of charting systems in nursing homes.

The Pros of Using Nursing Home Charting Systems

Moving from paper to electronic documentation is not a decision to be taken lightly, especially when you factor in the initial financial investment, staff training, and an implementation period. Furthermore, facilities with senior staff members accustomed to paper documentation may be resistant to adopting new technology. 

That’s why it is important to know the benefits of nursing home charting systems: 

1. Less Intensive Labor

One of the biggest pros to using charting systems in nursing homes is the automated processes that make previously time-consuming and difficult tasks less labor-intensive. Nursing home charting involves every facet of care, including creating and updating resident care plans and ensuring accurate PDPM reimbursements. These can be rather cumbersome when performed manually. 

Efficient charting systems in nursing homes come with built-in features, a care plan system, and customizable templates. The system will suggest problems and answers and provide automatic alerts. Such features accelerate processes, improve workflow, and make tasks easier, a significant advantage during a staffing crisis. 

2. More Eco-friendly

Electronic charting systems use considerably less paper, ink, and space, as facilities no longer need to print resident charts. Resident charts and medical records are now stored and viewed on portable, handheld devices, which are more environmentally friendly and require less physical space. This translates to improved workflow efficiency, as caregivers can pull up medical records at the point of care (besides the resident) using electronic devices rather than sifting through piles of paperwork for hours on end. 

3. Higher Quality of Care 

Giving caregivers easier and faster access to resident data results in them providing a higher quality of care. This is because they can view a resident’s care plan and update their charts immediately at the point of care, leading to increased documentation accuracy, better medication management, and reduced medical errors on account of poor handwriting.

4. Improved Data Collection and Analysis

A tablet and laptop computer is used to display the nursing home charting systems for data collection and analysis.
Nursing home charting systems improve data collection and analysis.

Facility staff must process massive amounts of resident data to create a personalized care plan while also ensuring the facility is sufficiently reimbursed for services provided to each resident. Nursing home software helps facilities organize documentation, create KPI reports, and review data trends quickly. 

Furthermore, since all data is stored on a cloud-based system, multiple departments can access and share relevant information when needed. By using state-of-the-art analytics tools like CareMetrics, facilities can view data and create graphs that enable their teams to make data-driven decisions. 

5. Enhanced Communication

Another significant advantage of charting systems in nursing homes is the improved communication between caregivers and other healthcare providers, who must communicate clearly and openly so that clinicians can diagnose and treat residents based on the resident’s medical history. Failure to do so can result in medical errors, inaccurate PDPM reimbursements, malpractice, or legal disputes. 

Contact us here if you would like to test drive the most efficient charting system in long term care.

The Cons of Using an LTC Charting System

While the advantages of using LTC charting systems in nursing homes is well-established, it is also worth mentioning the disadvantages:

1. Privacy and Cybersecurity Issues

All computerized data systems are susceptible to hackers, and charting systems in nursing homes are no exception. Healthcare providers are more vulnerable to hackers because of interconnected software like eMAR charting, ePrescribing, and eDocuments

These digital care management systems are managed by healthcare providers. Therefore, it is advisable for a nursing home to check what protection and resident privacy measures the software provides and whether they meet HIPPA compliance regulations. One way to tackle this problem is to adopt a nursing home software system with strict security and authorization protocols that limit data access to only authorized personnel. 

2. Human Error

Even though nursing home charting systems can improve data accuracy, they can only do so if the caregivers using the software enter the correct information, ideally at the point of care. If caregivers forget to enter new data or input information incorrectly, this can lead to diagnosis errors, incorrect treatment, and adverse outcomes. Therefore, every staff member must be given sufficient training to use the software to minimize this risk. 

3. Added Health Anxiety

Modern nursing software programs encourage open communication between caregivers, residents, and their families. Some will have a family portal by which residents or their families can access the resident’s medical information. However, this medical information can sometimes be misinterpreted, resulting in worried families calling the facility.

To avoid such concerns, family portals should be user-friendly, with only simplified medical information displayed and quickly explained to residents or their families. An efficient portal will also have a convenient messaging service so families can communicate with caregivers and address any questions or problems easily and get answers quickly enough to avoid added stress.  

4. The Time and Money Required for Proper Training

If nurses and CNAs have never used EHRs, you may have to teach them the basics of using a computer or tablet. And if they’ve used a different EHR, it will take some time to familiarize them with the EHR at your organization. Fortunately, EHR training is now available online for free, and that has proven to make a big difference in terms of both compliance and efficiency.

5. Lack of Engagement With Residents

Some EHRs are so cumbersome that long term care teams find themselves stuck behind computers all day. This not only frustrates residents but it erodes the passion that nurses and CNAs had for the industry when they decided to receive training in the first place. 

Such a situation happened at Chatuge Regional Nursing Home, where nurses began a mass exodus on account of using Cerner’s long term care software for med passes. The IT specialist there recognized the issue and moved the team to software specifically designed for long term care. All of a sudden, nurses who had requested to be transferred to acute care began to come back in droves

Implementing Charting Systems in Nursing Homes

Charting systems in nursing homes offer a great number of benefits for long term care facilities, like improved quality of care, better workflow efficiency, enhanced convenience, and standardized documentation processes. Studies show that long term care facilities that have successfully implemented long term care EHR software systems have seen a considerable improvement in clinical documentation management and clinical decision-making. 

A team of physicians and nurses display their approval for using LTC charting systems.
LTC charting systems can impact cybersecurity.

Of course, other studies point out that long term care EMRs come with potential problems as well, such as the financial cost of implementing the software, workflow changes, temporary lower productivity during the initial EHR adoption period, and cybersecurity concerns. All of these issues must be addressed before a facility moves from paper to long term care software. 

If administrators are still on the fence about adopting charting systems in nursing homes, software vendors like Experience Care also offer discovery calls where they explore the facility’s unique needs in depth to help the long term care team make a decision with which they are entirely comfortable. This attention to detail and concern for the consumer is why the software vendor is trusted as a reliable partner in the industry

For more on recent trends in long term care, read our blog and subscribe to the LTC Heroes podcast