Human Computer Interaction – Guest Columns

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Adam Saalman

In my last post I mentioned working on both sides of the fence as a full time employee with one organization and as a consultant where I went between many different client sites to implement solutions technologies.

I strongly support and can say with certainty that having a well-structured Information Technology (IT) department on-site is an essential part of the success of any technology initiative.

With the many people who make up a long term care facility, the range of personalities, disciplines, needs and desires makes each environment a very eclectic and unique experience. Staff usually have enough on their plate to be hyper-focused on their role within the institution and have little time to assess the links up and down the workflow chain of which they may be a part.

Add to this the facilities that are under the pressure of staffing issues and burnout, there is little room for the natural manifestation of enthusiasm to pursue critical thinking in terms of research. ‘innovation. The desire to improve efficiency is a distant thought when we’re just trying to get through the day.

But now, more than ever, it’s time to look at our workflows and see where we can improve data transfer from point A to point B to give back time specifically to our medical staff.

Since minimum staffing requirements are largely measured in hours of care per resident, it is imperative that IT focus on examining workflows down to the smallest detail. We should ask individuals up and down the food chain about the details. Questions can be similar (but obviously not limited) to the following:

  • Do you spend a lot of time entering data?
  • Is there anything you would just like to “autofill” in the DME?
  • Does the equipment that sends data do so in a timely manner (eg, vital signs machines send data to the patient’s chart)?
  • Does the EMR have accurate/efficient forms (Ex: is there a lot of time spent on the “other” field)
  • How are caregivers notified of “potentially” minor items such as a change in medication?
  • Does the internet seem fast enough?
  • Do the systems feel readily available?

IT issues often go unreported because our end users who don’t consider themselves “tech savvy” fear they look (for lack of a better term) stupid. How many times have you had a technician come into your workspace and fix something for you in an instant? The end user inevitably responds, “Oh? It was as simple as that? or “I feel silly… I’ll try not to bother you with this anymore.”

So for important things like process flaws, workarounds are formed and accepted as part of the normal flow of things. These inefficiencies can add up over the period of a shift and when we talk about the difference in minutes to hour average variance in resident care, the minor details are what we need to look at under the microscope.

IT professionals can do their part by being proactive with questions like the ones above to identify ways to improve. A good IT administrator is a good detective.

And since IT-related topics or tasks can sometimes seem overwhelming at first, the on-site IT specialist can work with staff at their own pace. The goal is to make individuals feel as comfortable as possible.

We don’t always have to spend on IT. There’s a lot to do with the products we already have in place just waiting to be used. Challenge your IT department to see what else can be done with the most basic products like Microsoft. You will find that many of these technologies are not a mile wide and an inch deep, but rather a mile wide and a mile deep.

Inevitably (and with the right staff with the right mindset), this will begin to build a foundation where employees understand that their support staff are truly there to support them. This baseline provides opportunities for growth and innovation in the organization. Software updates/upgrades will be easier to adopt because staff will be more comfortable asking the “dumb” questions. Workarounds will decrease in frequency.

And best of all, new technologies that can truly unlock the potential to improve resident care and experiences will be able to more easily “lock” onto existing infrastructure.

Adam Saalman is the Director of Information Technology for Holiday Health Care in Evansville, IN. Over the years, he has developed a passion for providing effective IT solutions and services to the healthcare professionals he serves..

The opinions expressed in McKnight Long Term Care News guest submissions are those of the author and not necessarily those of McKnight Long Term Care News or its editors.

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