With Technology, SNFs Can’t ‘Do the Same Thing and Expect Different Outcomes’

As patient acuity climbs and referral sources become more choosy about their skilled nursing partners, a variety of tech tools have emerged to help providers looking to improve their clinical outcomes and thrive in a value-based world.

But to do that, they’ll have to overcome the challenge of implementing technology in the long-term care setting — and much of that challenge is about culture, according to a panel discussion on a webinar hosted by Skilled Nursing News and patient monitoring technology provider EarlySense.

“I don’t think anyone’s ever said, ‘Oh, that skilled nursing industry, they’re such tech mavens, it’s such a high-tech industry,'” Tim Fields, the CEO and co-founder of Ignite Medical Resorts, said during the webinar. “I think naturally in the health care spectrum, we’re the last of the adapters.”

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Because of that, for SNFs to have success in improving outcomes through technology, the C-suite has to buy in, both Fields and Angie Light, the COO at the consulting group Vivizer, emphasized. While frontline employees will eventually be the ones responsible for using any new tech solutions, it’s essential for them to understand the big-picture reasons behind why the technology is being implemented, Light said.

That’s especially important given that a tech roll-out can sometimes entail a change in processes and procedures at the bedside, Nick Fleming-Wood, vice-president of sales at EarlySense, noted. When all employees at all levels of a SNF have the common goal of improving outcomes, the outcomes do tend to improve, he said.

“One of the areas for failure is sometimes when the common goals are not set up front, and everybody is working in a vacuum,” he said.

Vivizer implements written goals, policies, procedures to be implemented into the workflow of a facility for using new technology, Light said. Each market and each SNF will have slight variations in workflow, which makes it essential to hone in on the processes of each facility -— if they exist at all to begin with.

And because of the workforce and staffing shortages facing SNFs around the country, having processes in place is essential, given the realities of SNF turnover, Light noted.

“Those are issues that in our landscape are inevitable,” she said. “So we just have to be prepared.”

But while a good tech strategy starts from the top, it doesn’t stay there. The technology is implemented at the building level, and that may mean SNFs have to take a hard look at their existing workforce, Fields said. The director of nursing that has been at a building for 30 years and is good at managing regulations may not be the right fit for implementing technology and taking in new types of patients, he said.

“A lot of the pitfalls and the barriers happen with technology kind of being shoved down people’s throats, or it works in a beta environment and then you try to scale it,” he said. “And [that project] is just not managed properly for that.”

Ignite has built a model based on generating comfort with new technology and utilizing it well — which Fields said starts with staffing. In Ignite’s case, that actually has entailed hiring acute-care nurses, who are used to monitoring patients with higher-end technology in the hospital setting.

“In typical long-term care, we just hope we have really good nursing assessments and we catch changes of conditions before they become too serious and we have to send [patients] out to the hospital,” he said.

As a result, 50% of Ignite’s nurses come from the hospital setting, Fields said on the webinar.

Though that type of recruiting might not be feasible for all SNFs right away, one thing is certain: They can’t stick to what they did in years past, or even yesterday, when it comes to technology and using it to improve clinically.

“It’s kind of crazy to continue to do the same thing and expect to have different outcomes,” Fleming-Wood said.

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