Document storage systems have a role in senior healthcare

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Jesse Wood
Jesse Wood

Document storage systems are becoming imperative in senior care, particularly as the industry changes in terms of legislation, privatization and direct care measures. Senior care facility owners or workers can use document storage systems to better serve residents and provide better care while minimizing hassle and wasted time.

New wave of healthcare information technology

Sometimes, old legislation imposes challenges that can take industries years, possibly even decades, to overcome.

For example, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (aka the stimulus act), incentivized technology implementation and usage in the healthcare sector.

One fallback of this stimulus plan was failing to specify which technologies mattered most in facilitating the digital change the industry needed. The oversight was choosing to rely on systems that failed to implement standardization in document storage and communications across the senior health network.

In result, the adoption of electronic medical records and electronic health records solutions outpaced document management solution adoption in the senior care industry, leading to disarray and even further information chaos. Not only are EMRs clunky and difficult to use, but they also create substantial and disruptive learning curves for senior healthcare workers, including those working in senior living communities such as independent living, assisted living and even memory care communities.

Years later, the senior healthcare industry is still struggling to reach a consensus on IT infrastructure and is even investigating cloud-based solutions.

Exploring cloud platform options not only dismantles EMR solutions as the reigning IT champ in senior healthcare; it also paves a path to reducing the cost of care without instigating burnout in senior living communities across the industry.

Using technology to conquer staffing shortages, legislative challenges

The Affordable Care Act imposed several key challenges on senior living communities. Although it had a positive effect in making healthcare services available to a greater number of seniors, it placed a significant strain on the existing resources of senior living communities.

As the demand for care rose, so did the stress of community administrators. This legislative change encouraged a new wave of forward-thinking strategy on how senior living communities could manage protected health information to increase efficiency and security while simultaneously reducing the stressors of increased access to senior care.

As the access to care increased, providers within senior living communities struggled to keep pace with the demand that followed, and understandably so: hiring more senior care workers isn't easy, especially when their skills are scarce and a shortage of senior care workers persists in the American economy.

Document storage systems offer a method for continuing the senior care provider efficiency gained during the years of the ACA.

When applied to solving real senior care problems, these systems can provide the efficiency needed to not just overcome the administrative setbacks of the ACA but also provide greater access to inter-facility training and employee development.

Systems positively affect locum tenens

Given staffing shortages, modes of providing resident care such as locum tenens physicians and nurses are becoming more sophisticated and organized.

There are even organizations tasked solely with providing locum tenens opportunities to physicians looking to travel and to senior care facilities looking to fill staffing needs during the summertime or over the holidays.

There is such a widespread proliferation of EMRs and EHRs, however, and of such great variety, that many locum tenens physicians simply fail to understand how to use the solutions effectively. Couple this with the inherent clunkiness and usability issues, and you have a disaster waiting to happen — no matter how skilled the senior care provider may be in his or her area of expertise.

The solutions to this issue entail finding a simpler solution than an EMR or EHR when attempting to weave locum tenens staffing into the normal, everyday routines and practices of a senior healthcare facility.

Learning to do these things is better sooner rather than later, and, as is the case with most rapidly changing industries, setting the tone for change will help senior care facilities get ahead. This truism is especially real given the degree to which privatization and competition has gripped the senior healthcare industry.

Handling medical supply price fluctuations

One of the benefits of effective information management in senior healthcare clinics involves relying on solutions that will help these facilities from hemorrhaging money in the form of opportunity costs.

A major opportunity cost on the supply side chain of the senior healthcare industry involves being unable to adapt to price inflation with new direct care technologies.

If a senior facility does not use document storage systems to reduce administrative costs, then the increase in price of direct care technologies will be economically unobtainable for smaller facilities providing more tailored, personal care to seniors.

This scenario illustrates how cost adjustments and pricing models are an extremely delicate balance in the senior healthcare industry, but can be leveraged appropriately with the right solutions in place.

A flaw in the HIMSS's outpatient EMR adoption model

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, with its EHR adoption initiative, uses algorithms to score healthcare facilities according to certain guidelines in IT adoption, and EMRs are the baseline solution suggested.

The problem with the model is that it's clear in scope regarding the importance of digitization and unclear about what should happen with information once it is digitized.

This is a key component of where document storage systems pick up where EMR drops the ball. Paper-based senior healthcare environments have been proven to detract from positive resident experiences, resulting in lower quality of care and greater risk of improper information disclosure.

It's not to say that digitization is bad; it just isn't the whole story of a positive senior care experience for residents.

A lack of clarity on digitization structures frequently results in digital information chaos — which is just as virulent to information efficiency as the paper-based senior healthcare models EMRs were designed to overcome — especially when clear parameters aren't set in stone for what collaboration, sharing and security features should entail in selected facility solutions.

Document storage systems can help outpatient senior care providers ensure disaster recovery and mitigation efforts.

As part of the seventh and final tier of EMR adoption according to HIMSS analytics, the disaster recovery portion is more cost effectively handled by document storage solutions, as is the patient portal and electronic messaging components of EMR solutions.

Jesse Wood is the CEO of document management software vendor eFileCabinet. Founded in 2001, eFileCabinet began as a tool to digitally store records in accounting firms. As it grew in popularity, eFileCabinet developed into a full-fledged electronic document management solution designed to help organizations automate redundant processes, ensure security and solve common office problems.

McKnight's Senior Living welcomes marketplace columns on subjects of value to the industry. Please see our submission guidelines for more information.

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