Jan 27 2017

Technology Fuels Personalized In-Home Care

Tablets and infrastructure help Camellia Home Health & Hospice achieve a small-town feel with patients.

As the demand for in-home health services has blossomed, Camellia Home Health & Hospice has grown right along with it. In 2005, the family-owned agency employed 300 nurses and therapists in six locations. Today, its staff numbers more than 1,000 clinicians working out of 35 locations. But Camellia insisted that no matter how much it expanded, its traditional focus on compassionate, personalized care remained the top priority.

“Our patients are very dear to us. We’re a family organization, and our motto is ‘Families helping families since 1974,’” said David Pahlman, Camellia’s CIO. “Even though we’ve grown pretty large, we try to maintain that small-town, personal relationship with not only our patients, but our referral sources and our clinicians as well. But it’s very, very important to our administration that we stay cutting-edge in technology.”

Value in Extended Access

As part of that commitment, Camellia recognized the value of giving its highly mobile clinicians the ability to electronically access and capture data at the point of care in their patients’ homes.

However, when the agency made the pioneering decision to roll out tablets to each of its clinicians, it quickly became clear that the existing infrastructure couldn’t support the newer technology.

“We wanted everything to be as easy and transparent to our end users as possible,” Pahlman said. “But communication between the tablets and our servers posed a big problem. And being in a rural area, we had to jump through a lot of hoops to make sure everybody had enough connectivity. We couldn’t just give everybody an air card and hope that solved the issue, because we have a lot of black-out areas.”

Make a Plan

The initial rollout also strained the limited resources of Pahlman’s small IT staff, given the need to sync the tablets to other hardware and keep pace with the constant stream of software updates. As Camellia continued to expand and bring new agencies into the fold, the IT team also faced the recurring challenge of introducing the technology to new clinicians — most of whom had previously used paper documentation.

To most efficiently tackle the infrastructure upgrade, Pahlman put together a strategic plan with CDW Healthcare. The effort included setting up new T1 lines, switches and access points, and ensuring Camellia’s virtual private networks (VPNs) supported quality of service so staff didn’t have to worry about voice traffic overshadowing data.

With the robust new infrastructure in place, Pahlman’s team completed the rollout of Fujitsu tablets within about six months. “The biggest challenge was training,” he said. “I’ve got to give my staff credit — I’ve got a phenomenal team here. They really dug in and made everyone feel comfortable throughout the rollout.”

Improve Communications

Camellia’s clinicians appreciate the convenience of the tablets, from their portable size to the ability to enter, or connect to, information in a patient’s home, the office or wherever they are. “I have access to a patient’s chart within seconds,” said Amber Wade, a registered nurse working out of Camellia’s Hattiesburg, Miss. office. “And I have Internet access right here at my fingertips to help me — for example, if a patient has a question about a medication that’s new on the market and I’m not familiar with it.”

She also pointed out that the tablets enable on-call nurses to access charts for all patients, even those under someone else’s supervision, making it easy to provide immediate, accurate status updates to family members and physicians whenever they need it, even during evenings and weekends.

Pahlman expects to continue seeking guidance and support as Camellia integrates additional technology to further enhance the quality of care it provides — such as using home-monitoring devices for patients and improving online data access.

“We’re trying to move to an even more paperless environment,” he said, noting that Camellia has already established a dedicated portal for physician access to patient information and plans to create a family portal next. “So if someone living in New York wants to check on their mother down here in Mississippi, they can go anytime through the website and take a look. We’re just trying to find any way we can to improve communications between nurses and physicians with patients and their families.”

Dive Deeper

Wondering how mobile tools and IT infrastructure can improve in-home health efforts? Download the case study “Technology Connects Camellia Home Health & Hospice to Its Core Values” to learn more about:

  • How tablets are deployed
  • The role of IT infrastructure in easing staff efforts
  • Potential benefits to patients