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The long-term care industry has been pushed beyond its limits dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. Two years later, facility operators are still battling COVID-related concerns: significant staffing limitations, emerging variants, budget uncertainty, fluctuating occupancy, and additional regulatory requirements. As a result, healthcare organizations throughout the country are being asked to do more with less.

The pandemic has certainly disrupted the normal ebb and flow of healthcare staffing patterns – the results of “The Great Resignation” are well-documented. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 20% of America’s healthcare workers have quit their jobs since February 2020 and winning those workers back is at the top of everyone’s priority list.

However, adequate healthcare staffing is not a new problem, particularly in post-acute settings. Nor will it be easily resolved. While low wages and grueling schedules are often cited for staffing shortages, other issues can drive away even the most dedicated clinicians – such as physical exhaustion, mental burnout, work/life balance, caseload, and safety, to name a few. And the pandemic added several more: vaccine and booster mandates, coping with the loss of coworkers and patients, managing PPE, and additional regulatory requirements across the facility.

There’s hope the healthcare delivery system will start to stabilize as we head into the endemic phase of COVID-19. However, with progress will come a new challenge in delivering direct care. Many of those who have deferred medical visits or elective surgeries over the past 20 months will start filling appointment rosters, straining the already overburdened medical ecosystem. And, as the country’s baby boomers continue to age into Medicare, more elderly people than ever before will rely on the already overwhelmed healthcare system.

Hiring more staff is not the only option. Instead, healthcare organizations can make new headway by relying on an old idea: investing in people and technology.

Technology that Improves Staffing Efficiency and Patient Outcomes
While there is great value in emerging digital solutions like telehealth and wearables to advance cutting-edge patient care, automating time-consuming manual processes can make a real difference. Implementing data analytics that takes a deep dive into your current electronic health records (EHRs) can streamline workflows and maximize staff efficiency – during staffing shortages.

However, if that EHR automation requires complicated software adaptation, front-end data entry, or adds yet another spreadsheet for care teams to assess and interpret themselves, it does nothing to alleviate staffing concerns – it only adds to the mounting frustration and may delay key patient care decisions.

Instead, it’s time healthcare providers and other health delivery systems make their EHR data work harder for them, not their staff.

Post-Acute Analytics Streamlines Workflow and Prioritizes Care
Solutions like post-acute data analytics can fit seamlessly into facility workflow, putting actionable information into the hands of nurses and other clinical support staff where they are – whether that be the point of bedside care, during morning rounds, or during shift changes. The data gathering and documentation review, which sometimes requires clinicians’ hours of information gathering, can be pared down to just minutes and is based on the patient’s current status, versus MDS data.

For example, Real Time Medical Systems’ Interventional Analytics solution takes increasingly complex and continuously updated data found in post-acute EHRs and applies comprehensive algorithms and dynamic keyword searches to indicate why and when that patient needs clinical intervention in the PAC setting. The platform then sends alerts indicating a patient’s risk factors, subtle changes in patient condition, and suggests needed interventions, thereby empowering staff to make informed clinical decisions at the point of care in the least amount of time.

By accessing meaningful, actionable insights, backed by recognized standards of care, clinical teams can prioritize post-acute care management based on patient risk, current EHR documentation, consistent care delivery protocols across the facility, and standardize documentation among facility and agency staff –with no additional work, staffing, or data entry needed.

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