Residential Care Communities: Improving Quality of Care through Technology

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    The U.S. population is getting older. By 2034, older Americans will outnumber kids for the first time in U.S. history. That means a lot of changes for our healthcare system, especially as more senior citizens move into assisted living and residential care communities.

    These communities can enhance the quality of care of residents by improving how they organize and share health information, keeping pertinent health information on file in an orderly fashion, and strengthening communication across the entire care team. Electronic health records (EHRs) and computerized support for exchanging health information are a few ways to achieve this. But how many of these communities actually use these systems?

    Karna contributed to a study to understand just that. Published in the National Health Statistics Reports, “Trends in Electronic Health Record Use Among Residential Care Communities: United States, 2012, 2014, and 2016” shows that just over a quarter of residential care communities in the U.S. used EHRs as of 2016, regardless of bed size, for- or non-profit status, or geographic location. That number grew from 20 percent in 2012 to 26 percent in 2016. The data analysis also shows that, among those residential care communities using EHRs, there was an increase in computer-supported health information exchanges with physicians and pharmacies – up to 55 percent in 2016 from 2012’s 47.2 percent.

    On a more granular level, the breakdown of residential care communities using EHRs and computer-supported health information exchanges looks like this:

    • In 2016, larger communities (those with 100 or more beds) had the highest EHR use at 50 percent, compared to those with four to 25 beds, where only 16 percent used EHRs.
    • More than 41 percent of non-profit residential care communities used EHRs in 2016 compared to 22.8 percent of for-profit communities.
    • Chain-affiliated residential care communities using EHRs in 2016 came in at 33.1 percent, while only 16.8 percent of non-chain communities used them.
    • Non-metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) were more likely to use EHRs in residential care communities (33 percent) than of MSA communities (24.5 percent).

    Today, there are 28,900 residential care communities in the U.S., serving 811,500 residents. As the population continues to age, the number of communities and residents will grow significantly as well. So will the need to invest in technology. As of 2016, the number of residential care communications using these systems were in the minority, but it is important as a nation to invest in technology (i.e., EHRs) if we are to improve the quality of care, care coordination, and quality of life for our senior citizens as they transition from living at home into these new care-based environments.

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