The long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) industry’s use of point-of-care device integration with EHR systems is picking up steam. That’s a great thing for our industry. Wearable devices are still in their infancy, but use in LTPAC organizations will undoubtedly increase. What do LTPAC organizations need to know about these relatively new technologies?
First, it’s important that providers know that just because a device is capable of integrating with an EHR system doesn’t mean that the device actually integrates with their EHR system. There are many devices that claim EHR interoperability, but when you read the fine print it turns out the devices don’t interface with the major EHR systems that support long-term and post-acute care.
For the devices that actually do have integration with their EHR, providers also need to gain a solid understanding of how the devices will talk to the EHR. In some cases, the device vendor might require that the provider maintain an additional server either at each facility or in the data center. This adds a higher support burden on the provider than they might realize. Point-of-care and wearable device integration with the EHR should preferably be handled by the device integration vendor and not require a lot of effort by providers’ IT teams, who are already stretched thin.
There are three primary benefits of connecting these types of devices with EHR systems:
- First is the reliability factor. With device integration to the EHR, providers can know for sure that clinical measurements were taken and that the information goes into the EHR without errors.
- Second, using integrated devices saves precious caregiver time. No one has to manually enter information into the EHR. That time saving adds up – and will become an even bigger factor as the acuity level of patients in long-term and post-acute care facilities increases.
- The third benefit of integrating devices with EHR systems also points to a limitation for some devices—the ability of those devices to alert the right members of providers’ clinical teams when there’s a potential problem based on information collected through a point-of-care or wearable device. This real-time notification is very important in helping provider better care for patients and ultimately preventing hospital readmissions. However, some devices don’t support this type of alerting and notification. That’s potentially a big limitation, because the benefits of reliability and efficiency don’t mean nearly as much of they don’t translate to better care for patients.
Another limitation for some devices is that they don’t communicate to the EHR which caregiver was responsible for collecting the clinical information. That drawback could become an issue in the hands of opposing attorneys when litigation rears its ugly head.
Wearable devices will present another challenge for LTPAC organizations: a lot more data. Instead of gathering clinical information once per day or once per shift, vital signs and other measurements will flow continuously. This doesn’t have to be a negative for use of wearable devices, but it does raise several questions about how this information will be documented in the EHR. For example, will all of the data be recorded in the EHR or just snapshots at specified times?
The bottom line for LTPAC organizations is that the positives for using medical device integration are substantial – when the right devices are deployed. This technology should also help providers shift from having to worry about getting information into the EHR to focusing more on how to use the information to provider better care. And with the trend towards reimbursement based on outcomes, providers will need to adopt any and all solutions that help them navigate the changing landscape in our industry.
President & CEO
Constant Care Technology