Home Care: Paper Versus Plastic

Home Health Point of Care Software.

How often are we asked the question “Would you like paper or plastic?” at the grocery store?  When paying for your items, do you use cash or credit?  How many different thoughts or aspects factor into your decision either way?  Do you consider the environment, bank accounts, simplicity?

I recently had the pleasure of visiting with a couple of our clients to talk with them about the transition from paper documentation to online point of care documentation.  During our discussions they referred to the change as “Paper versus Plastic”. This initially made me chuckle, but then got me thinking.  What are the benefits of “going plastic” and what steps should you take before making the switch?

In my opinion, the pros of going point of care far outweigh the cons.  Yes, you may have the initial resistance to change, overhead cost for devices, and training curve for your staff.  Now imagine, if you will, the efficiency, accuracy, and overall happiness of your clinicians who no longer need to carry 5-6 paper charts each day or come to the office before and after visits to switch them out and sign documents.  Think of your patients’ care improving as a result of the clinician having real-time information at her fingertips, rather than hoping that the clinician that visited yesterday completed their note and filed it in the patient chart.  Envision your management team being able to do chart reviews without being buried by piles of paper.  This is the reality of a point of care agency – and you can get there.

One of the biggest hurdles that agencies making the switch may have, is the change in content.  On paper, clinicians have the freedom to create their own notes and assessments. In an electronic system, assessments and visit documentation is most likely built-in. In addition, the content may be very different from what they’re used to.

Establishing a way to make the transition is important for any agency making the switch. My “first-things-first” suggestion is to get blank copies of your system’s electronic notes.  Print them and have your clinicians start using them on paper.  This will enable you to introduce them to potentially new content while keeping your current process and procedure intact. You may also have an opportunity to make suggestions or requests to your software vendor during this phase.  This will help you get everyone on board and ready for the change.

Next, ensure you have a solid understanding of your current-state processes.  Keep an open mind, however, and be flexible to change.  Going electronic will necessitate changes to your current procedures. Don’t fear this. It’s a good thing!  Once you have your current processes outlined, walk through the system and create a roadmap for the new ones.  Being able to tell your staff “this is what we used to do and this is how we’ll do it now” will not only help with the transition, but it will show your clinicians that you have completely thought through the transition and are committed to making it as easy for them as possible.

Now it’s time to get your clinicians online. Where do you start?  My suggestion would be to select clinicians with the strongest computer skills and best attitudes – the ones who are most likely to succeed and do well with the new process.  Train them and let them start slowly.  Go out to do their visits and then come back to the office for support as they work to enter their notes into the system.  They can also help with suggestions on optimizing the new processes and with working out any kinks in the process.

After your first group is proficient, begin to train the rest of the staff.  Use the same training process as with the first group; allowing them to come back to the office and be supported as they get used to the electronic documentation.  Be advised, expectations surrounding productivity may need to be adjusted during this time period.  Over a couple of weeks they will increase proficiency such that they can return to normal productivity.  Also keep in mind that some clinicians may have a greater learning curve than others. Be supportive and flexible. They will get it!

When you feel like you’re ready to make the leap, be sure to visit with your vendor to put together an implementation plan.  The more support you have, the more successful your transition will be.  They have a wealth of experience and can help with advice and answers to your questions along the way.