Home Care Company Improves Outcomes Via Tablet Deployment

A California home care agency has found success in equipping aides with tablets, outlined in a case study describing the process of reaching the decision and how it has benefited the company and its workers. 

Sutter Care at Home began searching for ways to integrate mobile health technology into its practice, eyeing benefits such as improved data sharing and care coordination, greater efficiency by clinicians, and better communications and teamwork by mobile caregivers. 

The agency serves nearly 100,000 homebound patients in 23 counties in northern California, with services ranging from hospice to home infusion therapy, respiratory care, and home medical equipment.

Ten years ago, Sutter Care at Home began experimenting with outfitting caregivers with laptops, but found them too cumbersome to travel with and not always able to connect to the internet. The rollout hadn’t been completed four years later, and the company then tested smartphones.

The smartphones were easier to transport and get connected, but new challenges popped up in the form of small screens and inability to access Sutter’s EHR system or faxed documents. 

Now aides are equipped with Android tablets with a 7-inch diagonal screen that can be held in one hand and fit in coat pockets, which they use for a range of activities, from documenting services rendered to directly ordering medical supplies to communicating with other caregivers.

“Tablets have sped up the flow of the process,” said Jennifer Brecher, project manager for the mobile device project, in the case study. “In the past, if one of the clinicians went to see the patient on Monday and the physical therapist would go on Tuesday, the therapist would not have the  information about the Monday visit available. This is better from a productivity perspective and better for the patient.”

The tablet-based supply ordering cut the company’s medical supply costs by 20% a visit in the first year, according to Phil Chuang, chief strategy executive at Sutter Care, and also improved the timeliness of order delivery to patients. 

Using tablets is “definitely benefitting [caregivers and clinicians] and making it easier for us to do our jobs,” says home care nurse Victoria Conneely in the case study. “In the end, it helps the patients. It’s definitely the way to go.” 

Access the case study, released by The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives in April 2014.

Written by Alyssa Gerace 

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