With the growth of accountable care organizations (ACOs) and other value-based care delivery models, long term and post-acute care providers have become an increasingly crucial partner in the care continuum.
In fact, hospitals and health systems now receive financial incentives or penalties to ensure that providers are able to effectively manage the health statuses of discharged patients.

Improve Implementation

Partnering with these other health care organizations is one of the most significant reasons that providers should implement electronic health record (EHR) technologies that promote the interoperability of data. Not only does an effective EHR system support safe transitions of care, one of the core objectives of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services program that provides incentives for the meaningful use of EHRs  includes meeting minimum data exchange requirements with external providers.

Although long term and post-acute care providers are ineligible for the financial incentives associated with the program, eligible care delivery organizations are eager to capture that revenue and are inclined to align with an organization that supports those efforts.

A successful EHR system implementation, however, can be a daunting process without the appropriate strategy. The initiative requires the provider to assess the potential impact to the organization; form a detailed implementation plan; and select an enterprise-wide software suite that addresses all clinical, financial, and operational functions of the organization.

By following these steps, facilities will rapidly be equipped with the tools to easily create documentation, streamline workflows, and analyze data to improve staff and provider productivity, while also ensuring the best possible care for residents.

Step 1: Understand How EHRs Will Impact Workflow

When considering EHR systems, centers should avoid implementing technology that replicates the inefficiencies of paper-based workflows. Providers and staff need to learn how to adapt their workflows so that the EHR software’s access to data and documentation can help them work more productively.

Partnering with a knowledgeable and experienced software vendor will help organizations understand the differences between paper-based and electronic workflows and assess the training and transition impact to providers and staff.

During this impact assessment, facilities must determine the training, costs, and technical requirements involved in a successful EHR transition. This is also where organizations will begin to understand how providers’ daily workflows will change, which is often underestimated. Once again, an experienced software partner can offer valuable consultative assistance that will help avoid disruptions down the line.

A typical fully staffed facility can expect a three- to four-month EHR transition, but this timeline is highly dependent on the software selection. An enterprise-wide software suite, including the EHR system, deployed with a software partner experienced in the long term and post-acute care industry can streamline the process because there will be fewer internal systems to integrate and only one new interface for staff and providers to learn.

This implementation support should include training on financial, operational, and clinical documentation systems, as well as the physical conversion of paper charts to ensure care continuity is maintained and the facility continues to meet all relevant regulatory requirements.

Step 2: Develop An Implementation Plan

Once the impact assessment is complete, facilities must develop an implementation plan, in conjunction with their software vendor, which describes all duties and recommendations for affected providers and staff. This implementation plan will include the training methods, which may vary depending on the facility’s size and/or preference.

Some facilities will elect to train a small internal team on the software and process changes first, who will then serve as trainers to the rest of the staff. Others may ask the vendor to perform all administrative staff and clinician training.

Regardless of the method, most organizations discover that having providers and staff conduct workflow simulations incorporating real-life scenarios is particularly effective in helping understand the paper-to-electronic transition.

From a technical perspective, the implementation planning process is when facilities must include ample time to ensure that integration throughout the care continuum will be incorporated into the EHR-equipped workflows.

The selected software vendor should assist the center in understanding how the system will collect, normalize, and flow data from external providers and how to leverage that information for improved clinical and financial performance.

Step 3: Implement An Enterprise-Wide Software Suite

While crucial, the EHR system should be only a portion of a community’s enterprise-wide software suite. Long term and post-acute care are unique from other health care organizations in that facilities need to integrate the clinical data, supplied by the EHR, but also financial, operational, marketing, and point-of-sale information for a truly targeted, resident-centric approach to care.

Furthermore, an enterprise-wide software suite reduces the time spent searching for information stored in diverse departments and can also eliminate documentation redundancies, which can help improve the quality of care, as well as analysis and reporting.

For safe and effective transitions of care, these data—shared through the enterprise-wide system—also need to include information collected from external providers, such as pharmacies, laboratories, and other testing facilities, all of which could help alert providers to resident issues that could lead to a potential adverse event.

After admission to the facility, these integrated data, gathered from across the software suite, allow providers to better concentrate on resident needs and simplify the data exchange across the clinical, administrative, and operational areas of the facility. External providers are also automatically kept in the loop, which helps them better monitor outcomes and control costs.

EHR systems have proven to be a necessity for providers interested in establishing themselves as an integral member of the health care continuum. By selecting an experienced software partner and following a step-by-step process, these organizations can streamline their transition to EHRs and an enterprise-wide software suite. These tools will not only help them improve resident care and financial outcomes, but they will also support external care delivery partners’ goals of cost-effective, high-quality care.

Aric Agmon is president and chief executive officer of AOD Software, delivering integrated clinical, financial, operational, and point-of-sale solutions to long term care providers. He can be reached at president@AODsoftware.com.