How Technology Enhances the Senior Living Resident Experience

April 21, 2022 Kimberly Anderson-Mutch

In today's healthcare environment, patient satisfaction and technology go hand in hand. Senior living facilities can use digital healthcare tools to build a foundation for positive patient experiences, leveraging the power of data for better organization, efficiency, and care quality. Technology offers various direct and indirect benefits, from reducing expenditures to streamlining a nurse's workday.

Let's take a look at how information technology can improve the work of clinicians to support positive patient experiences.

What Does the Patient Experience Look Like in Long-Term Care?

The patient experience is heavily influenced by the technology that moves the practice forward. If caregivers are working with slow, frustrating programs that don't provide robust patient information, they might miss important healthcare details, develop poor bedside manners, or become too overworked to deliver quality care. Since technology forms a foundation for most clinical tasks, poor solutions create ripple effects for the entire staff and ultimately detract from the patient experience.

Some elements of that affect experience include:

  1. Healthcare outcomes: Of course, the quality of care is one of the most significant parts of an independent living facility. Residents should be receiving the highest quality of care possible, and technology can enable important insights into healthcare outcomes. Without the right tools, a facility may struggle to improve its quality of care and resident experience.
  2. Healthcare delivery: How patients receive their care can also impact their experiences. Frustrated, overworked caregivers, unnecessary delays, and miscommunications can significantly damage a patient's perception of their care.
  3. Interactions with staff: Older generations typically prefer providers who provide emotional support and explain conditions clearly. Staff members can create positive assisted living resident experiences by understanding their patients' expectations and delivering empathetic, friendly interactions that put the patient first. Technology can support these goals through detailed data access and efficient processes that leave time for caring interactions.

Data collection and management underlies virtually every part of the patient experience. Data drives decision-making and can power new capabilities, like leveraging artificial intelligence and optimizing care through increased access to information. Tech can be a powerful tool in improving the patient experience, particularly when it comes to personalization.

Why Is Patient Satisfaction Important in the Healthcare Industry and LTC?

The patient experience is a vital part of patient satisfaction, a metric that has some wide-reaching effects. It can impact everything from reimbursement to marketing to health outcomes, with some direct and indirect benefits.

For example, hospitals have a direct incentive to achieve high patient satisfaction—it affects their reimbursement rates. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) withholds a small portion of Medicare reimbursements and only pays it out to hospitals that meet specific standards. These standards include having an appropriate readmission rate and achieving high scores on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), a survey given to a random sample of adult patients about their experience.

But patient satisfaction isn't just about reimbursement—it's often a marker of overall success, positively affecting revenue and helping attract new residents. Hospitals with excellent HCAHPS patient ratings, for instance, saw net profit margins averaging 4.7%, compared to just 1.8% for hospitals with low ratings.

A high patient satisfaction score can also help LTC facilities set themselves apart from the competition. It shows the real-world assessment of a facility's patient experience and encompasses many aspects, making it an excellent number to track. It can offer prospective residents an at-a-glance measure of what to expect. 

Other positive outcomes associated with high levels of patient satisfaction include:

  • Positive care processes for prevention and disease management.
  • Adherence to medical advice and treatment plans, particularly for patients with chronic conditions.
  • Better health outcomes.
  • Lower malpractice risk.
  • Greater employee satisfaction and reduced turnover.
  • Increased patient loyalty.

Whatever your organizational goals, patient satisfaction likely plays a significant role. Fortunately, with so many different aspects involved, you have many options for improving it.

How Can Technology Help?

One of the most promising options for improving the patient experience is leveraging digital tools, especially as an aging population increases the strain on the healthcare workforce. The number of people aged 65 or older has increased from 41 million people in 2011 to 71 million in 2019—a whopping 73% increase in just 8 years. The U.S. Census Bureau expects that number to continue to rise.

Almost 70% of industry experts say that digital healthcare solutions are highly relevant for the business. For most respondents, improving well-being through health outcomes is the primary purpose of digital health services. It's also good for keeping up with the competition, retaining customers, and reducing expenditures. Virtually all U.S.-based health system leaders agree on the importance of actively investing in digital transformation.

To improve the patient experience, LTC facilities must use it correctly. Some of the top reasons for a negative healthcare experience include a lack of efficiency and helpfulness. Many digital healthcare solutions aim to fix these problems, streamlining work processes and optimizing care.

For example, self-service scheduling can help prevent burnout, allowing staff members to enjoy their work and stay engaged. On the backend, the facility might use AI to match team members with patients based on their skills or create a schedule according to census and business demands.

The possibilities are endless, and digital tools are a major part of improving patient satisfaction in the modern healthcare system.

How to Improve Patient Experience in Healthcare With Digital Tools

Digital tools are one of your best patient experience solutions nowadays, but they should also help you improve aspects like convenience, trust, and health outcomes. Here are some of the ways LTC facilities are improving patient care through technology:

1. Collect and Analyze Data

More tech means more data. LTC facilities need to process that data to learn from it effectively. From remote monitoring solutions and patient scheduling to employee trackers, the amount of information entering your systems can be extensive. Digital healthcare technologies can make sense of it all, placing your data in a centralized platform that links up these different systems and helps you find new insights.

AI might alert providers when a new treatment would interfere with an existing condition, while a comprehensive scheduling solution could incorporate census data to generate optimized schedules. Better data handling can help speed up a range of processes, like patient intake, payroll administration, and staff assignments. It can also provide valuable information on various metrics, like health outcomes and efficiency.

These insights can guide decisions throughout the business. In scheduling, for example, you might collect and analyze census data, employee availability, screening information at time of clock-in, and other elements required for a satisfied, efficient workforce.

2. Streamline Administrative Processes

LTC facilities commonly turn to digital tools to speed up their processes. Team members can work more efficiently by eliminating time-consuming manual processes and improving transparency and communication. By spending less time on administrative tasks, they can spend more time focused on what's important—the patients. 

Say an office manager spends the majority of their day on scheduling and resolving various HR demands. They choose to implement a time-saving scheduling platform that allows staff members to self-service their scheduling needs and provides at-a-glance project management tools through a real-time dashboard. The administrator frees up a significant part of their day to meet the organization's overarching goals. 

The program may also use AI to streamline the administrator's day. It can help facilities predict resource requirements, adjust schedules, and intelligently address other operational needs.

3. Attract and Retain Talent

An enjoyable patient experience depends on the care team. When staff members are in a good mood, enjoy their work, and don't feel stifled by technological limitations, they can provide better care. Fortunately, tech can enable efficient workflows that allow team members to focus on more valuable tasks, like interacting with patients.

Easy access to tools like time-punch platforms, early paychecks, and scheduling can make the workday more enjoyable, helping keep employees happy and engaged. Optimizing these elements is valuable for both employee and employer. Staff members can enjoy schedules and payments that fit their needs, and employers can avoid conflicts or gaps while minimizing the time it takes to issue paychecks and schedules.

The right tools can help your employees feel valued. You might use attendance tracking features to easily identify top employees, offering rewards and acknowledging them for their hard work and dedication.

Technology can also help during the selection and onboarding process. You might have many applicants to work with or benefits to manage, and technology can simplify the process. It can help you make job postings, sift through applications, communicate with candidates, and find the best fit for your organization.

4. Improve Communication

Improved communication among staff members of a facility can speed up the workday, enhance patient care, and increase employee satisfaction. Strong technology solutions allow administrators and clinicians to easily communicate with each other, providing timely responses for filling shifts, last-minute conflicts, and other issues that could lead to a scrambled and overworked team or a dissatisfied employee.

Fast communication methods can also streamline on-the-job activities. Rather than tracking down an employee to relay an important message, administrators can push information to all applicable employees from their time clocks, freeing up more time for everyone. Attentive team members who have time to devote to patient care can also help create a more understanding, focused experience.

5. Achieve High Visibility

A powerful feature of digital healthcare tools is the ability to collect all of your data in one place.

Your EHR collects patient data in one spot, but you can also use centralized information in areas like managing overtime and scheduling. An administrator might, for instance, look at a real-time dashboard to understand key labor trends, hours reconciliation, and budgeting data for a full picture of the practice. They can better meet the needs of staff, increase engagement among the workforce, and take steps to improve the patient experience—all while protecting the bottom line.

Technology can also create visibility on an individual level—mobile schedule management allows staff members to receive notifications on their phones about open shifts, new schedules, schedule changes, time-off request approvals, and more. They can stay in touch with supervisors and help ensure quality staffing and patient care.

6. Create Equity Among Staff

A key part of staff satisfaction—and by extension, patient satisfaction—is equity. Self-serve options can limit logistics issues and help ensure everyone has the same level of access to available shifts, direct communication, time-off requests, new schedules, and other important elements of their work experiences. In addition to helping employees accomplish various tasks, the right technology can offer peace of mind. Employees can rest easy knowing their work needs are simple to manage.

Equity can help limit animosity among team members and boost teamwork, ensuring a staff that works together to offer the best patient experience possible.

7. Focus on Continuous Improvement

Technology can also help facilities reach their goals of continuous improvement. You might use those powerful analytic capabilities to assess performance and find ways to improve. New insights might help you predict resource needs, make more informed decisions, and improve compliance. You could also use punch attestation to collect staff surveys and get a pulse on how their workdays are going.

One example of a digital feature for continuous improvement is Spotlight and its Five-Star Rating predictor, which helps you see how past, present, and project staffing for your facilities compares to federal regulations. It delivers custom suggestions for helping you meet your rating goals.

8. Consolidate Your Systems Using Automation

Using multiple disconnected systems means you're not taking advantage of the easy-to-access, centralized capabilities of modern digital healthcare tools. Almost 90% of clinicians said they need to consult different electronic systems at least a few times a day to access patient information. During the COVID-19 pandemic, executives said they added five systems on average.

Look for all-in-one platforms that can help with a variety of tasks with automation systems. SmartLinx, for example, performs payroll, scheduling, workforce analytics, HR, and much more. You can limit the number of programs your staff needs to access to do their jobs well and deliver exceptional patient experiences.

How SmartLinx Helps Improve Patient Experience

Many types of digital health tools are available for LTC facilities, but perhaps the most important is the one that underpins everyday operations. Technology automation and data can streamline your scheduling, payroll, and other HR demands, leaving staff members to focus on the important things. That's where SmartLinx comes in.

SmartLinx is a comprehensive workforce management platform that simplifies these tasks using automation, allowing you to create more efficient and enjoyable patient experiences. Your staff can spend less time focused on the day-to-day minutia of administration and more time creating a great patient experience.

Learn more about how one easy-to-use platform can empower you to:

  • See all staffing data in one place—including real-time agency usage and overtime.
  • Generate a census-based schedule.
  • Quickly and easily identify internal staff for open shifts.
  • Request agency staff for open shifts without leaving your scheduling platform.
  • Automate simultaneous agency and facility punch tracking to eliminate invoice discrepancies.
  • Ensure accuracy for reporting with automated and integrated data.
  • Ensure a happier and healthier workforce and a better patient experience.

Explore everything SmartLinx has to offer or reach out to us today to learn more about technology improving healthcare.

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