URMC Team Helps Nursing Home Referrals Go Electronic, Makes Relics of Fax Machines
It’s electric! Boogie woogie. Over the past year or so, a pioneering team made up of staff from Strong Memorial Hospital, Highland Hospital, Highlands at Brighton, Highlands Living Center, and ePartner planned and implemented the capability to refer patients electronically to nursing homes across Monroe County. Talk about an “Electric Slide”!
They’ve nixed the outdated way—a dinosaur of a system relying on fax machines—and turned instead to patients’ Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) to do the job. The change represents a long wished-for method to address what was unmistakably a major inefficiency.
As Kelly Luther, director of Social Work and Patient & Family Services at URMC, put it, “This was an entirely fax-driven process, seeing hundreds of pieces of paper traveling through fax machines all day long. If you’ve ever used a fax machine, you’ve run into a roadblock with one. They’re guilty of jamming, printing illegibly, and altogether abandoning the job. Needless to say, our new tool is much less laborious and much more accurate.”
When we’re dealing with patients’ health information, we just can’t afford mistakes like a lost page of a medical record. The new process allows nursing homes to select and view the most relevant clinical information for admission consideration, and ultimately to figure out what patients’ care needs would look like once they landed in a nursing home. “We couldn’t wait for this solution to become a reality,” said Luther.
And what an elegant one is here. Its development was intricate: First, URMC’s team outlined exactly what information nursing homes required for referrals. After working through kinks to get the technology running, they tweaked and enhanced it. Then the team tested and retested its product, sending paper and electronic referrals simultaneously for each patient to see to it that all info was indeed transmitted. Their perseverance paid off in the form of this better, faster, safer way to share information.
It started small, with a six-month pilot involving URMC’s two system nursing homes, but quickly became the darling of the majority of in-county nursing homes. To get there, URMC’s ePartner team invited all Monroe County nursing homes to adopt the new system, providing free training (computer-based or in-classroom) to ease the transition. Just as on the referring side workflows had to change, those on the receiving end did too. Now, with the exception of a few, these county nursing homes count themselves among the users. What’s more, URMC is in the midst of helping out-of-county nursing homes in the region take it on.
The project has invited glowing feedback, and nursing home response times have been markedly trimmed back. The most common question sprouting from the tool’s use is, according to Luther, “How did we ever survive without this?”