Oct 25 2022

LeadingAge 2022: Tackling Senior Care Staff Shortages with Technology

Strong partnerships and collaboration paired with technology implementations can help senior and post-acute care organizations mitigate the effects of staff shortages.

The pandemic exacerbated staff shortages in healthcare, including in the senior and post-acute care spaces. According to the June 2022 State of the Nursing Home Industry survey from the American Health Care Association, 60 percent of nursing home providers said their workforce situation has worsened since January, and 98 percent are experiencing difficulty hiring staff.

While 90 percent of the organizations surveyed have offered increased wages and bonuses to attract staff, many senior and post-acute care organizations are turning to technology to improve staff and clinical efficiencies, streamlining workflows while saving time and costs in some cases.

At the 2022 LeadingAge Annual Meeting + EXPO, industry leaders explained how technology solutions can help senior care organizations mitigate the impacts of staff shortages.

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How Can Tech and Process Help Senior Care Mitigate Staff Shortages?

“COVID-19 accelerated the chronic staff shortages in aging services. At the same time, technology can automate repetitive tasks and drive efficiencies if processes are streamlined,” said Majd Alwan, senior vice president of technology and business strategy at LeadingAge and executive director for the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies.

However, technology alone is not enough, according to Steven VanderVelde, director of senior living partnerships at ProviNET Solutions. He explained that organizations must have a strategic IT plan in place that fits into their overall strategic plans. A technology partner can help organizations to adapt their plans to meet their specific needs.

Travis Gleinig, CIO of United Methodist Communities, recommended that senior care organizations partner with vendors that have the same strategic vision. In addition, leaders should start with a three-year plan to stay flexible.

“There have been several technologies released in the past 18 months that have been game changers,” he said. “If you’re stuck in a plan, you might find yourself in technical debt and unable to adapt.”

DISCOVER: Best practices for digital transformation in senior care.

When putting together a strategic IT plan, it’s important to include all stakeholders in the process, including residents and staff.

To support these strategic IT plans and investments, senior care organizations need a strong network infrastructure in place. Having robust connectivity throughout a campus, rather than just in common areas, is beneficial for both residents and staff, as strong Wi-Fi and the appropriate level of bandwidth can support devices and technologies to improve experiences, health and workflows.

Once the plan and supporting technology is in place, senior care organizations can begin implementing technologies and processes to better support existing staff. Gleinig suggested that organizations look at technology grants to assist in funding implementations.

His organization implemented the VSTAlert system from VirtuSense to reduce falls. As a result, he said, falls resulting in injury decreased 71 percent. The solution made fall prevention more efficient and effective and improved nurses’ ability to care for patients, according to Gleinig.

Creating a dedicated resident IT services role, or a tech concierge, takes the pressure to answer resident questions off of staffers, freeing them up to focus on their planned tasks.

Thrive Innovation Center CEO Sheri Rose added that, while not new, virtual reality is making a difference in training the workforce, with some solutions showcasing how seniors or people with disabilities may experience the world to create more compassion in senior care staff.

How Data Analytics Can Transform Post-Acute Care Workflows

“The past two years have been unbelievable as far as staffing resources. Nurses are being asked to do more with less, and they’re burned out,” said Kathy Derleth, senior clinical account manager at Real Time Medical Systems. “How can we make life easier for staff members’ everyday workflows?”

She suggested focusing on a replicable strategy, namely, reducing the administrative burden with data analytics.

Angela Huffman, vice president of clinical services at Affinity Health Services said that, using a data analytics platform, her organization was able to “work smarter, not harder by leveraging technology to enable staff to be the best they can be.”

A data analytics platform can data mine and bring forward relevant information about which patients need additional care. Huffman explained that the solution reduced paperwork and time spent by nursing staff combing through volumes of paper records every day. This streamlined the process for morning meeting prep and shortened meeting times, allowing the clinical team to establish new care plans quickly and prevent hospitalization or infection.

Kathy Derleth
Nurses are being asked to do more with less, and they’re burned out. How can we make life easier for staff members’ everyday workflows?”

Kathy Derleth Senior Clinical Account Manager, Real Time Medical Systems

The technology also suggests clinical interventions for patients with identified risk. Affinity Health Services worked with Real Time Medical Systems to customize alerts. For example, post-acute staff can be notified about changes in eating habits or medications. Huffman said her organization also wanted live data so that nurses know how a patient’s condition is changing in real time. This data comes directly to the nurse, rather than the nurse having to look through paperwork at the nurses station.

“We’re moving from predictive to interventional analytics,” said Derleth.

Data analytics platforms can also discover illogical ADL coding, which has an impact on reimbursement. This alone can help organizations recuperate costs, and organizations also can order additional training for clinicians who have multiple instances of illogical coding.

When implementing a data analytics platform, Huffman suggested, post-acute care leaders should show staffers how they can work smarter rather than telling them that things are changing.

“Instead of adding something new in the beginning, think about how you can incorporate it into something existing, such as grand rounds or your morning clinical meeting or risk meeting,” she added. “We sold it to staff by saying, ‘You have a new tool that will prevent you from spending hours looking at charts. Now you can spend time impacting patient outcomes.’”

Keep this page bookmarked for our coverage of the 2022 LeadingAge Annual Meeting + EXPO, which took place Oct. 16-19 in Denver. Follow us on Twitter at @HealthTechMag and join the conversation at #LeadingAge22.

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