Nursing Homes Lagging Behind in Electronic Records?

Nursing homes have a reputation for being ‘behind the times.” New York in particular has a somewhat abysmal track record of providing high-quality care. One on hand, the problems are rooted in finances and personnel. Often operating on tight budgets, some facilities cut corners on staffing, leading many residents to languish without the hands-on care that they need to get by each day.

On top of that, however, there are innovation challenges. Rarely are nursing home lauded for being at the cutting edge of improvements which take advantage of new trends and caregiving approaches. You often read about hospitals or medical clinics that are using the newest and the latest tools to provide care to patients–nursing homes don’t often receive the same plaudits.

Behind the Records Curve
One recent example of this problem comes Health Data Management, which reported on the challenges of pushing long-term care facilities to use electronic health records. The shift to electronic health records was cutting edge several years ago at most medical facilities. However, by now, many have already made the shift or are in the process of doing so.

The HDM story notes that while 75% of doctors are using electronic health records today, very few long-term care facilities have followed suit. A New York research service, Manhattan Group, released data not long ago that indicated the stunning reversal of EHRs, with hospitals and clinics switching over en masse over the last five years.

But not most skilled nursing facilities.

Electronic health records can drastically improve efficiency, as information can be transferred to caregivers instantly, across miles, without the inherent problems of paper records. There is potential to drastically reduce medical errors with the switch
Nursing Homes – Weak Link
An often overlooked aspect of EHRs, however, is that they are only as good as the network that uses the records. And that is where nursing homes are dropping the ball. For example, a hospital that has electronic records cannot send them to a caregivers at a long-term care facility if that facility is still using the old paper system. All of this results in residents suffering, with less efficient care and the chance for more medical errors.

Experts suggest that there are a myriad of reasons for this state of affairs. Financing the switch to electronic record is part of the problem, but it is not the whole story. Many observers suggest that there remain cultural problems in nursing homes, with operators too-often ingrained in older thinking without a push for innovation.

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