The 2020s may turn out to be the decade when digital technology reshapes healthcare, as an aging population and public health crises continue to challenge the country’s healthcare systems. The digital health community — including those active within the Veterans Health Administration — must work to encourage public health measures nationwide. The goal of adding patient engagement and education is to activate and transition those who may be passive listeners into active learners who will be willing and able to participate in their care.
By providing more than just health education, GetWellNetwork’s Resident Experience encourages Veterans in long-term care settings to take an active role in their health and well-being. The simple and easy-to-use digital health solution gives older adults in VA Community Living Centers (CLCs) a highly engaging and entertaining suite of tools and resources for navigating their health journey.
An identified need for unique engagement solution for VA CLCs
Aging in place is defined as a process which allows individuals to remain in their living environment in spite of the cognitive and physical declines that may take place in the course of aging. In order for this to occur, services must be able to compensate for these changes (Medicaid Provider Policy and Procedures).
These are some common reasons why elderly patients need CLCs and Skilled Nursing facilities:
- Limitation of activities of daily living
- Mobility issues
- Bowel and bladder incontinence
- Visual and auditory difficulties
- Cognitive deficits
- Communication dysfunction
According to the 2017 National Population Projections performed by the United States Statistics Bureau, all baby boomers will reach age 65 and one in five will be retirement age by 2030. Also by 2030, the number of people aged 60 and over will reach 1.5 billion, a 65% increase.
For these and other populations, CLCs provide many services, including:
- 24-hour skilled nursing care (e.g., help with a wound or IV care)
- Restorative care
- Access to social and nutritional guidance
- Geriatric evaluation and management
- Palliative care
- Specialized care for Veterans with dementia and other cognitive deficits.
Resident challenges are concentrated within the areas of moving from home into a long-term care facility; staying active, engaged, and entertained within the CLC community; staying connected with friends and family; staying informed; and maintaining privacy and individuality.
GetWellNetwork’s response to the needs of aging residents
The Resident Experience’s thoughtfully designed features consider these specific needs of aging residents, incorporating interactive tools like resident orientation, memory aids, and cognitive games that enhance quality of life and keep minds sharp and alert.
In addition, the needs of aging Veterans are addressed through features like larger-sized fonts and icons, simple navigation and menus, video chat applications that are easily accessible, personal safety education, leisure activity coordination and notifications, palliative care and end-of-life information, and access to spiritual guidance services.
While the Resident Experience is focused mainly on residents’ experiences, it also notably supports staff-efficient workflows to make entries easily accessible. Staff face many challenges in long-term care settings, such as working through resistance to culture change, staffing issues, and daily work that is physically and mentally demanding.
In this particular Northeast VA-CLC, GetWellNetwork applies automated, prescribable workflows, also known as Pathways. This feature helps to educate, inform, and inspire residents while reinforcing routines and promoting long-term health and wellness.
The new CLC-specific Patient Experience Pathway is built within GetWell Resident Experience. Included are questions required for national benchmarking, as well as additional questions chosen by the facility. They fall under topics like doctor communication, nurse communication, staff responsiveness, pain assessment, sense of home, room cleanliness, and visitor services.
The GetWellNetwork technology also offers call-to-action invites, and reminders to attend a specific function to promote social engagement and interaction (e.g., bingo in the Recreation Room at 4 p.m.). Entertainment options in this CLC also include therapeutic links embedded in the software so residents can enjoy physical, occupational and recreational therapy highlights and other in-room exercises.
Performance improvement with GetWellNetwork
VA CLCs must meet standards set by the federal government to protect residents. Examples of these standards include:
- Hiring enough quality staff to provide adequate care
- Managing medications properly,
- Protecting residents from physical and mental abuse
- Storing and preparing food properly.
Each VA CLC is evaluated based on a variety of aspects including but not limited to the care of residents and processes used to give that care, and how the staff and residents interact.
Since process improvement relies heavily on communication followed by actionable changes, GetWellNetwork Resident Experience serves as a digital health communication platform and follow-up medium, as well as a resource for leadership. GetWellNetwork features such as a Survey Report incorporate listening to residents’ voice within areas like Senior Surveys, “Leave a Comment,” and “Cheers to Staff,” which are monitored and used to reach a common objective: the satisfaction of residents.
Quality of care in CLCs
Quality of care in CLCs can be evaluated based on Strategic Analytics — SAIL Measures. These include a patient’s:
- Ability to move independently
- Improvement in function
- Help with activities of daily living (ADL)
- Falls with major injury
- Staff rating (benchmarked to national CMS average)
The CLC in question uses GetWellNetwork’s digital health technology and is star-ranked and compared to other VA CLCs in the area.
Outcomes derived from CLC Medicare Compare — Department of Veteran Affairs
The measures within CMS Nursing Home and CLCs Compare are:
- Receive Anti-Psych Medications
- Moderate-Severe Pain
- Physical Restraints
- Help with ADL
- Ability to move more independently
- Staffing Measures
- High-Risk Pressure Ulcers
- New or Worse Pressure Ulcers
- Improvement in Function
- Star Rating
The bottom line
The era of digital health is upon us, and actively accelerating. In the work with the VA, GetWellNetwork’s Resident Experience has risen to meet this challenge by being as innovative and robust as it is customizable. Any process improvement analysis starts with looking for positive outcomes while maintaining the highest quality standards, as well as effective communication. GetWellNetwork’s role of strategic partner with the Veterans Health Administration unites the people, process, and technology, and drives positive outcomes for the number one stakeholder: our Veterans.