Dec 12 2022

4 Technologies to Improve Staff Experiences in Post-Acute and Senior Care

Clinicians, caregivers and other staff are often pulled in several directions due to staff shortages. These four technologies can improve workflow efficiencies.

Staff shortages in senior and post-acute care are getting worse. According to a recent survey from the American Health Care Association, nearly all nursing home providers are experiencing difficulty hiring staff, with 60 percent reporting that their workforce situation has worsened since January.​ The same percentage say they are limiting new patients due to the staff shortage.

“Many of the staff that made it through the COVID-19 pandemic have left the industry or are looking for other jobs because they don’t feel supported,” says Liz Cramer, chief post-acute and senior care strategist for CDW Healthcare.

At independent-living and assisted-living organizations, staff shortages can impact the number of resident activities available. In addition, at organizations without a tech concierge, caregivers may be tapped by residents to handle questions or IT issues, interrupting their workflow.

LEARN MORE: CDW partners with senior care orgs on the right health IT solutions for their needs.

“Even though staff technologies are so important, the vast majority of organizations are still spending money on resident engagement,” says Jessica Longly, senior care strategist for CDW Healthcare. “And even though staff shortages are a major concern, senior care organizations are having a hard time finding technologies to address it specifically.”

As senior and post-acute care organizations grapple with these staffing challenges, technologies such as voice interactive devices, virtual reality, updated networking infrastructure and mobility solutions can help improve operational and staff efficiencies, freeing up clinicians, caregivers and other senior and post-acute care staff to focus on their jobs without being pulled in several directions at once.

1. Voice-Interactive Tech Create Staff Efficiencies in Senior Care

Voice interactive technologies aren’t beneficial just for patients and residents, they are also useful to senior and post-acute care staff.

“Two-way communication can really give time back to staff members, compared with when they had to physically go into a room to communicate,” says Cramer. “Voice technology creates an opportunity for staff to triage patient or resident needs.”

Medication requests can be transferred directly to a nurse, and in situations where patients may just need water or assistance in their room, that request can be directed to a nonclinician.

Speech recognition technology also makes electronic health record documentation easier for clinicians. With natural language processing, the technology transcribes and inputs the clinician’s notes within the EHR to speed up the documentation process.

Liz Cramer
Many of the staff that made it through the COVID-19 pandemic have left the industry or are looking for other jobs because they don’t feel supported.”

Liz Cramer Chief Post-Acute and Senior Care Strategist, CDW Healthcare

On the senior care side, adoption of smart home solutions is growing, and many of these platforms use voice and video. With the release of the Matter 1.0 standard from the Connectivity Standards Alliance — backed by Google, Amazon, Apple and others — it will become even easier for smart home and Internet of Things devices to be integrated, which will likely lead to further adoption.

Smart home devices allow older adults to maintain their independence and control their environments with less assistance. This frees up staff to focus on core tasks rather than going into residents’ rooms to change the temperature or turn a light on or off.

Longly suggests that senior care organizations looking to implement smart home technologies choose enterprise solutions that can be centrally managed so that caregiving staff, maintenance and others can have greater visibility into the organization’s smart home investments.

2. Virtual Reality Training Makes Caregivers More Empathetic

Virtual reality is being used for resident engagement and satisfaction, in memory care units to calm patients and decrease the use of anti-anxiety medications, and with caregivers to help them be more empathetic.

The virtual reality platform from Embodied Labs lets caregivers see the world through the eyes of their residents or patients, which can help them deliver better quality care. The platform also provides training and has a higher retention rate for learning, which helps caregivers learn faster and gain confidence on the job.

3. Mobility Tools Provide Efficient and Ergonomic Solutions for Staff

One way to retain employees and improve satisfaction is to consider staff wellness. Solutions such as ergonomic medical equipment can make a big difference in how caregivers and clinicians experience the day. Mobile workstations also make it easier for clinicians to document and treat patients at the point of care.

Other useful mobility tools include clinical communication and collaboration platforms, which make it easier for clinicians to communicate and escalate issues. Mobile devices paired with CC&C solutions can ensure that clinicians don’t miss important messages or risk miscommunication, which could lead to burnout and negatively affect patient outcomes.

When implementing different platforms and apps, Cramer explains that integration is critical.

“There are a lot of solutions that can automate clinical tasks, but if they don’t integrate with the EHR, staff members aren’t going to use them,” she says. “They can’t go to six different icons to gather information. Having integrated systems would mitigate staff shortages and increase staff efficiencies. They want to find the information in one spot rather than three or four different locations. There’s a lot of duplicative work staff have to do because of a lack of integration.”

Longly adds that having a single pane of glass for those integrations will improve workflows and help senior and post-acute care organizations retain staff.

EXPLORE: How to tackle senior care staff shortages with technology solutions and services.

4. Strong Connectivity Is Key to Supporting Senior Care Tech Initiatives

Many senior and post-acute care providers have Wi-Fi connectivity only in common areas or at nurse stations; in some instances, residents at senior care organizations are responsible for providing their own Wi-Fi.

“In a patient setting, if you don’t have connectivity in hallways and common areas, point-of-care documentation can’t be done in the patient room,” says Cramer. “That is affecting staff. They must go back to a certain area to complete their documentation rather than doing it at the point of care. When connectivity isn’t there, it’s going to decrease staff efficiency and increase staff frustration.”

Longly points out that most technology vendors assume senior and post-acute care organizations already have robust networking solutions in place to support technology implementations. Before starting a technology implementation, organizations should ensure they have the proper network infrastructure in place.

Technology partners with expertise and strong buying power such as CDW can help senior and post-acute care organizations upgrade their networks and account for future broadband needs when planning the upgrade.

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Tips for Implementing New Technologies in Senior Care Settings

When looking to implement new technologies, Cramer says it’s important for organizations to consider the problem they are trying to solve. If the problem relates to staff, then staff should be involved in the process early on, she adds.

“If the previous process was manual and you’re adding technology to automate it, you need to make sure the manual part goes away so you’re not just adding more work to their plate,” she says. “You need to ask yourself, ‘If I’m adding this, then what am I taking away?’”

Planning is key to a successful technology implementation. Longly explains that having a cross-functional team with executive sponsorship early in the process is huge and can prevent time and money being spent on a project that may ultimately fail.

According to Longly, some questions senior and post-acute care organizations need to consider when approaching technology implementations include:

  • How will different roles be impacted? Consider different departments, including nursing, sales, marketing, maintenance, and more.
  • How could the technology impact residents or patients? What do you want the desired outcome(s) to be?
  • Is it possible to understand how the new technology will impact operations before making the investment?
  • Do you have internal champions who will drive adoption?

READ MORE: Find out best practices for digital transformation in senior care.

“You need to involve appropriate support from all levels of an organization, especially if you are bringing in a specific solution or technology to improve staff efficiency and workflows,” says Cramer.

When beginning a pilot without an understanding of how the solution will impact the organization holistically, or without understanding what the organization will need from the technology and the solution provider, issues can arise later in the process, says Longly. It’s also important to identify early on whether there are system integration costs and what the timelines look like for integration.

“Determine your key performance indicators early and have a planning mindset for the pilot and next stages to be more successful,” says Longly. “It’s also important to bring in the IT team early to know if your network can’t support the implementation.”

The pilot rollout plan should include a strategy to communicate with staff and residents throughout the process, and a training strategy that establishes who will own that process. Cramer adds that it’s also important to plan for ongoing education and new staff training.

“If you’ve seen one skilled nursing facility or campus, then you’ve seen one. If I haven’t been trained, I’ll revert to what I know,” she says. “That’s why you need ongoing education, not just basic training, especially for technologies or solutions specific to your campus. Explain how you use it and how you expect them to use it.”

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