SaaS-tainable healthcare – Cutting down on admin to focus on care

It’s called long-term care – but the focus should be on the care, suggested Diane Tennant, an administrator at Marianhill Inc. based in Pembroke, Ont.

PointClickCare uses a SaaS model to assist long term care homes with their documentation.

Which means healthcare staff should not find that administrative work – filling out paperwork and sifting through patient records – are an obstacle to actually providing the care they spend so long documenting.

That’s the goal of a project Tennant kicked off at her continuing care facility in 2002.

She started moving staff administrative tasks on to an application specifically tailored to the long term care industry. The application – from Mississauga, Ont.-based company, PointClickCare – is accessed via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.

PointClickCare invited a handful of their customers to hear about Tennant’s success with the software.

“You don’t want the staff spending time on charting,” she says. “That’s why I think the project is so valuable, staff members are actually spending more time with the resident, not flipping through papers and papers and papers trying to document the care they are providing.”

Marianhill is just one of 3,000 long term care facilities across the U.S. and Canada that subscribe to the PointClickCare service.

Since its inception, in 2000, the company has grown quickly as its SaaS model proved compatible with budgeting at homes across North America.

PointClickCare has been ranked by Profit 100 magazine as one of Canada’s fastest growing companies, and Deloitte Technology places it at 36 in its list of 50 fast growing companies, with a greater than five-fold increase in revenue between 2002 and 2006.

Homes that move to a paperless record-keeping system reap the time-saving benefits.

The strictly-regulated industry also needs to make documentation as efficient as possible to meet with compliance standards and prove their case for funding requirements. But a couple hurdles have to be surmounted by homes that make the switch.

The IT budget is often tight at only one per cent of total revenue, and staff not used to working with computers could find it hard to make the leap.

“Find a champion to take the lead,” Tennant advises. “I took the lead at my facility. I also visited other facilities, especially when I was implementing upgrades, because I wanted to see the software in action.”

The coordinator has also taken on the role of systems administrator, giving her staff access rights to the software as needed. She’s moved a greater load of documentation items onto the system each year since bringing it online, giving staff time to adjust instead of going full throttle.

It started with tracking billing, patient records for wait times and vital life signs and then gradually grew to include details on patient records such as falls that occurred, cases of aggression and now even encompasses photos of patient ulcers and wounds.

“Earlier, our patient care was all on a patient chart,” Tennant recalls. “When we switched to electronic documentation, it enabled nurses to type their notes so they were clear, because their writing is often hard to decipher, as nurses are notorious for having bad handwriting.”

The reporting features of the software also give Tennant greater ability to track the 100 residents in her care.

A report could be run to call up all nursing notes for a specific patient over the past three months for example. Because of the SaaS model, all the data is hosted by PointClickCare, and can be accessed remotely – which Tennant does from home on the weekends when she needs too.

The SaaS model resonates with the long term care industry because of the budgetary and IT expertise scenario, says Mike Wessinger, PointClickCare’s president. Long term care facilities must run on lower budgets than hospitals do and don’t have a lot of extra cash to buy an IT infrastructure to get an application up and running for the entire staff.

“If you look at the way the nursing home’s budget is done for just about anything, it comes down to pennies per day, so we price our product the same way,” he explains. The license is not a price per user charge, but instead a fee of 28 cents per resident per day. The aim is to fit snugly into the budgets of long term care facilities.

The pricing structure means that even the 36-bed King City Lodge in King City, Ont. can make use of the software. Director of Nursing Kelly Graham estimates her home is saving up to six hours of worker time a month since switching to PointClickCare in 2002.

“Sometimes other larger homes are surprised we’ve accomplished so much. But I think our small size has actually helped us,” she says. Graham was personally able to meet with front-line staff and direct them.

The home makes use of two touch-screen terminals that use the software’s point of care function. Staff members are able to press icons indicating what care tasks they’ve completed for which residents as they’re doing time, instead of recording the information on a paper chart.

Graham took a novel approach to training staff on how to use the software.

“Their introduction to the computer was letting them play solitaire. Once they were able to come up to the computer, start the game and move the cards around with the mouse, we told them that’s all they’d need to know.”

The software is very user friendly, Tennant agrees. The support that comes with the license is also reliable. A notification is given when the help desk receives your concern, and then staff typically contact you the same day to address the issue.

Future plans for the home include using tablet PCs with a wireless network to allow nurses enter data about residents from their bedside. Marianhill will also look at the touch screen terminals already in use at the King City Lodge, Tennant says.

“It’s time saving,” she says. “You’re not looking for things; they are at your finger tips on the computer.”

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