Perhaps more than any other line of service within the continuum of care, senior living must carefully cultivate every aspect of its community life to meet the evolving needs of current and prospective residents. No longer are senior living communities – including independent living and assisted living – perceived by many as a “lighter version” skilled nursing with bland furniture and kitchenettes. Today’s communities are ripe with desirable offerings and amenities, including restaurants, live music venues, sports and wellness centers, educational opportunities and more.
That said, there’s an often-overlooked ingredient that positions both residents and communities for sustainable health and success: care coordination.
Care coordination, at its most fundamental level, entails the medical chart following the patient at each applicable stage in the health care continuum. In senior living, such coordination is absolutely vital since residents may develop conditions that necessitate hospitalization, skilled nursing stays or home health care. Coordination between providers not only helps ensure that information within a resident’s medical record is accessible and sharable, but it also enables everyone—resident and caregivers make informed decisions about the type of care needed, where it should be provided and what happens after it’s completed.
Within the senior living realm, care coordination also runs deeper…
It facilitates open and informed dialogue about a resident and their unique needs among caregivers at all levels in all care settings. Hospitals will have advanced knowledge of a resident, their conditions, diagnoses, treatments and more.
It helps ease the transition from one care setting – e.g., a hospital or SNF – back to the senior living community, reducing stress and anxiety for everyone involved.
It gives residents priceless peace of mind knowing that, if they must physically transition to an outside provider (e.g., hospital, SNF), their medical records will follow them; their practitioners will already have knowledge of them and their medical information; and it enables a more personalized approach to any care needs.
It position senior living communities competitively in the marketplace. Word of mouth is one of the most prevalent and effective forms of advertising in the senior living space. When residents experience positive care episodes and enhanced outcomes, they and their loved ones are likely to recommend the community to friends and associates.
In short, proper care coordination ensures that all the right pieces are in place and fit seamlessly. For senior living providers, there are two keys to achieving this:
1. Optimized EHR and Interoperability
It’s essential for all providers that interact with a resident – including senior living, long-term care, skilled nursing and home health – to accurately and effectively track various levels of care. This not only keeps medical conditions, diagnoses, treatments and more in a centralized place, but it eliminates mistakes, redundancies and paper records, and it enables senior living providers to track health and wellness trends over time.
In this respect, it’s best to rely on an EHR solution from a recognized industry leader. At Richter, our implementation and optimization consultants help communities around the country with comprehensive pre-implementation planning, customization and training on best-in-class solutions like PointClickCare®’s Senior Living Core Platform, which includes service billing, diagnosis management, progress notes and preadmission assessments.
The benefits of this for senior living residents are obvious. For senior living communities, it also provides hospitals in your region with quick and easy access to clinical outcomes. When senior living communities and other healthcare settings maintain healthy relationships and share outcomes quickly and easily, confident referrals are much more likely to occur frequently over time.
EHRs are only as effective as the people who use them—and effective utilization takes training. At Richter, our senior living consultants include registered nurses who have extensive experience as VP/Director of Clinical Operations, Director of Reimbursement, MDS Coordinator, Resident Care Coordinator, Director of Nursing and other clinical leadership roles. Working with staff at all levels, we help them be the best they can be, and we equip management with roadmaps, toolsets and knowledge that promote efficiency and compliance in every facet of your clinical operation. While that includes all phases of clinical operations, it also encompasses training on EHR systems and processes.
To sum it up, care coordination is a win-win for everyone. It helps senior living communities and their health care partners – be they on-site or off-site – with common tools and information to streamline care. And it provides residents with confidence, comfort and care delivery that enhances outcomes in all the ways that matter.