Three ways that tablet-based software facilitates a more interactive patient experience
by Jennifer Richter
May 17, 2016

Patient-centered care is a hallmark of home health and hospice organizations, requiring high-touch patient/clinician interactions delivered in a warm and compassionate manner.

iPad software

Forward-thinking home health and hospice agencies are now adopting next-generation technology to support high-touch interactions, streamline information exchange and enhance patient and family engagement.

Following are a few key ways in which technology facilitates better care.

1. Empowers clinicians with information.
By using point-of-care technology, such as laptops or tablets, clinicians can quickly retrieve a patient's care plan and health record during the visit. Having immediate access to the patient's complete story helps staff to deliver the best care and services possible without having to wait for information.

For instance, at Community Hospice in Vidalia, Georgia, clinicians have the ability to view records and look up a patient's health history using a tablet-based application, empowering them to make appropriate decisions or take action as needed without having to chase down answers regarding care or medication regimens. They can also access online and offline resources, and answer patient or family member questions. Meaning, if a patient has a question about a prescription, the clinician can search for and provide answers on the spot, even without an Internet connection, rather than having to research the question after the visit and respond later. This enables clinicians to interact with patients in a timely manner and improve the patient experience by sharing critical information at the time it is requested.

Additionally, if a clinician needs details regarding a patient's wishes that may have been captured during a prior visit, he or she can review those details immediately, avoiding any wait times or guess work. For example, staff can view legal documents such as living wills and "Do Not Resuscitate" forms that are scanned directly into patient records.

During sensitive moments especially, having prompt access to information such as this—even in a situation where there is no Internet access—is extremely valuable and can save not only time but also anxiety for patients and their families.

2. Enables seamless information sharing.
As staff provide care to patients, they can efficiently record the experience using point-of-care technology. Documenting on-site rather than waiting until after the patient visit ensures staff accurately and completely capture what happened during the encounter.

At Community Hospice, staff document the care experience using another tablet-based solution, easily working through screens that prompt clinicians for specific information. This not only ensures consistent and streamlined data capture, but it also promotes smoother information sharing across the care team. Team members who are not present can easily access the patient's record and obtain a clear understanding of his or her current condition and what happened during a previous visit. In addition, clinicians can efficiently deliver updates on the patient's condition or changes to the care plan without having to call, email or text fellow team members.

This technology also helps clinicians share information with families. If a family caregiver misses a visit, staff can offer key information about that visit using the tablet tool. Even if the family member's usual staff contact is not available, any authorized staff person can access the patient record and give an accurate overview of care.

3. Engages patients and family caregivers.
While technology can improve information access, certain types of solutions can even enhance more direct patient and family interactions. For instance, Community Hospice has found that tablets are less intrusive than laptops when interacting with patients and their families. With the tablet solution's intuitive design, staff are able to easily navigate various screens, seamlessly documenting while carrying on important conversations—without having to work around the physical barrier of a larger computer. This allows better focus on the patient and delivers a more high-touch experience, which is particularly beneficial for elderly patients who are not accustomed to technology and may be put off by a more traditional, intrusive technological solution.

At Community Hospice, chaplains and other ancillary personnel have also seen the benefits of a tablet product, using the devices when interacting with patients and their caregivers. For instance, chaplains might download complete texts such as the Bible or other liturgical documents to read with the patient and family, avoiding having to carry around bulky equipment and heavy books. The convenience of having everything on one device may also enable staff to turn to online images or music to provide comfort or to answer questions.

Through technology, home health and hospice clinicians are able to adopt new solutions that empower staff. Using automated tools, nurses, aides, therapists and other staff can spend less time writing notes and chasing down answers, and more time delivering high-touch, quality patient care.