By Fahad Aziz, Chief Technology Officer, Caremerge
“Incidents” in assisted living and memory care communities aren’t always one-off falls. They can be key indicators of a developing health pattern or wider community risk.
Late-night wandering could be an early sign of dementia; an upset stomach could be a symptom of food poisoning; a stumble in the bathroom could mean rooms need better accessibility design.
That’s why reporting incidents promptly and thoroughly is essential for more effective and personalized care for older adults — not to mention it’s required by law.
The pandemic has underscored the need for greater health transparency for every stakeholder in a senior living community. Nursing staff and community decision makers need incident data to inform prevention and treatment, families want to be in the loop about their loved one’s well-being, and residents deserve to know that they’re in good hands if something happens.
But documenting every incident in a community of hundreds of residents can be a challenge. Digital systems and integrations with communication platforms make seamless reporting, and ultimately a stronger network of care, possible.
Take the guesswork out of compliance
Completing a report thoroughly at the time of the incident is necessary in case there are any concerns about liability or staff negligence down the road.
Every state’s Department of Health & Human Services has a different policy for incident reporting in senior living, however. That can make keeping up with compliance procedures tricky for certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and nursing staff.
Incident reporting apps typically have state compliance regulations built in, which means staff don’t need to worry about forgetting to log certain details. The digital system helps staff capture every necessary piece of information, like location, witnesses, parties involved and type of incident.
These apps also ensure that nursing leadership have visibility into the incident if further action or medical attention is required. The director of nursing (DON) and registered nurses (RNs) must be notified of incidents involving CNAs for compliance purposes, and apps with digital communications swiftly notify leadership teams when something has gone wrong.
Integrate with EHRs for proactive, holistic care
One study of healthcare environments found that interoperability between clinical data and health IT is critical for the effective delivery of care.
But paper is one of the biggest snags in care continuity. Written incident reports too often get lost or misfiled — if something happens during one CNA’s night shift, the CNA who comes to work the next morning might not even hear about it.
Digital incident reporting saves everyone time and makes sure every incident is logged, saved and easy to retrieve. And integrating that reporting with electronic health records (EHRs) empowers nursing staff to see the full picture of residents’ health and modify care plans accordingly.
EHRs track things like chronic conditions and medical appointments, so it makes sense that incident reports should be housed in the same place. But that’s not always the case — sometimes incident reporting systems are separate from residents’ clinical information.
When incident reports are stored alongside clinical data, nursing staff are better equipped to provide personalized care to their residents, even if they weren’t on the clock when something happened. They’ll know to be more vigilant in identifying:
- Symptom patterns
- Accessibility barriers
- Noncompliance with community health protocols (such as not wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19)
Plus, incident reporting with EHR integration means that minor incidents that could make up key health data go documented. Even if the incident doesn’t require prompt medical attention, like an elopement, it could be a personal or community risk factor that nurse staff should keep watch for.
Better reporting means better family communication
The pandemic has been a deeply worrying time for family members of assisted living and memory care residents. Families unable to visit their loved ones often remained in the dark about their health and safety for weeks at a time.
For greater peace of mind, family members need immediate and full details of an incident involving their loved one along with an updated care strategy or treatment plan.
Instead of relying on staff members to personally update families after an incident, reporting apps integrated with family engagement platforms can send HIPAA-compliant notifications to loved ones if something has happened. If the family member has questions or concerns, they can message with the nurse staff directly through the app.
Prompt incident reporting is only one piece of strong family communication. When nursing staff members have full visibility into residents’ health through reporting and clinical data, they can update family members proactively rather than reactively.
Data enables risk prevention, personalized care
When communities digitize incident reporting, they can collect and analyze more data to better protect residents from harm.
Storing incident data in one central platform, alongside EHR and family engagement channels, gives operators insights that can guide mitigation measures. From a single resident’s health patterns to community-wide risk factors, this data is crucial in any risk prevention strategy or nursing plan.
Simply put, digital incident data means fewer incidents and safer, healthier residents.
Fahad Aziz is the co-founder and chief technology officer at Caremerge, a software platform that connects senior living residents with staff and family members.