Wireless solutions improve efficiency of home care providers

Mar 8, 2010 5:14:08 AM

While electronic systems holdthe tantalizing promise of apaperless workplace, healthcareproviders continue tofight old-fashioned paper blizzards and theproblems that surround them. A desire todig out from under just such a whiteoutprompted the Greater Vancouver CommunityService Society to seek a better way.

The non-profit group found its answerin a BlackBerry-based point-of-care applicationfor its network of 300 communityhealth workers, nurses and supervisors.The group, which provides services to 1,400clients annually, learned of the CellTraksystem in a presentation by Victoria-basedProcura, a homecare solutions developerand long-time partner with CellTrak TechnologiesInc., of Phoenix. CellTrak is availablein Canada as Telus MobileCare.

“For us, because we are a non-profit, costwas a major factor,” said Diana Hill, directorof the home support program. The organizationjust went live with the system at thestart of February, and it expects to realizemajor savings by abandoning an errorpronepaper and pen reporting system.

“The other thing was, twice a month,we were receiving 4,000 time sheets,”which meant 10 days a month of work fora member of Greater Vancouver’s financeteam, and some supervisory time.

Now, using the CellTrak solution,which relies on secure BlackBerry devices,supervisors use Procura’s clinical managementsystem to send patient-visit schedulesdirectly to the mobiles of their healthcareworkers and nurses. They can evengeographically optimize their daily patientvisits and routes.

Because the BlackBerry units can betracked by GPS, they provide more securityfor often-isolated workers, an issue that hasbeen highlight by B.C.’s adoption of “WorkAlone” legislation. “It added a bit of safetyand security to the scheduling system that isa real benefit to us,” said Ron McLeod, theorganization’s executive director.

The home care provider recently finishedtraining for its field staff and plansfurther training for only a small minority.Ms. Hill noted that younger workers whoare most familiar with cell phones and textmessages mastered the system faster thanolder, less tech savvy employees. “It is avery simple system to use, it is very repetitive,so it is just a matter of them buildingup their confidence to be able to use it regularly.It’s not difficult,” she said.

Procura president Warren Brown saidacceptance of the mobile solution has takenoff in the past three years as healthcare chiefexecutives began to understand the advantagesof the system and initial worker resistanceto a new system was surmounted.

Initial attempts to use cell phones aspoint-of-care devices “were pretty clunkyand didn’t deliver a lot of value,” he said.“Really, the big push has been in the lastyear. Home care providers needed somethingwith really timely informationaround the logistics – such as, where am Igoing and what does my schedule looklike?”, as well as richer clinical information,said Brown.

Information flows both ways, so notonly does CellTrak make workflow betterfor home care workers, but it also allowsmanagers to remotely confirm that visitsactually took place, to check the duration ofvisits and remotely add visits “on the fly” bysending a new client’s information to ahealthcare worker’s BlackBerry in the field.

In the case of no coverage cellular “deadzones,” a worker’s device will retain theinformation sent to it up to the time oflost coverage, but updates or new assignmentswill not be received until the workeris back in cellular coverage.

In the end, speed is as much a criticalcomponent of the CellTrak solution as is thepaperless efficiency and other benefits. “Ourbusiness lives on the ability to make frequentchanges to schedules, changes to careplans, changes to medications,” said Brown.“So it wasn’t just the accuracy of theinformation, it was our capability to getnew information to people, and to get itthere quickly.”

The CellTrak mobile healthcare solutionwas just this fall selected by homehealthcare giant We Care Home HealthServices to provide automated time andattendance tracking for staff after alengthy pilot program.

We Care said it selected CellTrak over arival provider based on ease of use, servicereliability and customer support providedduring the pilot. Other benefits noted byWe Care were reduced paperwork, automatedscheduling and better communicationamong its care teams.

“Time and attendance is 100 percentaccurate now,” said Scott Herrmann,senior vice-president of sales at CellTrak.“There is productivity in knowing exactlyhow long staff are at visits, when theyarrive, when they are late.” Automaticalerts can also be set by managers for suchthings as late arrivals, staying too long at avisit or not staying long enough or when avisit is missed.

The GPS function solves the biggestissue in the industry, he said. “The entirehome care industry is assuming people areon the job.”The handheld devices are also used toemail vacation and time requests and latearrival notifications on the part of staff, “sothey have improved their communicationsby using their email system,” said Herrmann.

The mobile homecare solutionalso results in fewer billing errors, “becausethe time in, the time out and whatoccurred in the visit is all automated andpushed to Procura from the point-of-carein real time,” he said. “If you have fewerbilling errors, you have fewer lost clients.”

Reprinted with permission from Canadian Healthcare Technology, March 2010 issue. Original article can be found at http://www.canhealth.com/emags/cht1003/

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