Assisted Living Software: Creating an Ideal Experience
Assisted living: such is the fate for many individuals later in life or when some circumstance such as an injury or chronic illness makes self-care much more challenging – assisted living software plays a significant role in enriching the lives of patients and driving operations which is why critical that these solutions need to be top-notch.
We say “fate” specifically because of the somewhat bleak connotation it carries as transitioning to an SNF (skilled nursing facility) or accepting in-home care inherently means losing some degree of independence. Not to mention, virtually every established provider has at least a handful of scathing reviews which makes an already difficult process even harder. To create better experiences, great software can and should play a key role in enriching the lives of patients and staff as well as demonstrating value to prospects: it should be easy, considering the target audience.
With that in mind, we’re first going to look at some current models on the market delivered by different providers that range from comprehensive, full-featured systems to more specific use cases. From there, we’ll follow with a handful of ideas you should consider for features as well as the general UX (User Experience.)
Popular systems used by medical professionals in the market today
Most individuals and loved ones never ask for specifics on an assisted living center’s software – you just kind of expect that they have something in place that makes ‘this talk to that’ such things happen as they should. However, the reality is that software needs to be the primary driver in operations for the sake of customers and staff alike.
Of course, what matters most is usability and security. So let’s take a few different assisted living software solutions on the market to help demonstrate how these platforms fit into patient care by either providing a comprehensive set of digital services or by filling some valuable niche.
As one of the most recognized medical software providers, Cerner offers a range of different solutions that can be custom-tailored for individual needs and scaled over time. They offer everything from analytics to CRMs, revenue management, global health services, and just about everything you can think of. They also offer an API that allows developers to both customize systems as well as securely interface with data for use in other HIPAA compliant systems.
The PointClickCare platform offers turnkey solutions for a handful of systems with select services geared specifically for assisted living and senior care. They also offer a solution for home health care with tools specifically designed to assist and sync geographically dispersed teams with centralized tools for billing, intake, scheduling, and more. They also offer a robust API for additional customization and integration with their services.
While out-of-the-box solutions from OnShift aren’t quite as expansive as the two businesses above, they offer a solution that’s designed to handle employee functions in senior care like scheduling, time tracking, payroll, and a few other features in this realm. They leverage their mobile app as a kind of hub for employees plus, they offer a talent acquisition solution to help fill roles quickly and cost-effectively. Unlike the above solutions, they do not offer an API so businesses are limited to features and customization options offered by the platform.
As an EMR/EHR-centered platform, NetHealth offers a powerful, collaborative solution for sharing medical data among both authorized providers and patients. The secure system is designed to allow easy access to health records, medication, and other medical data to help professionals provide optimal care plus, it provides useful administrative tools like a reputation management system. The patient portal provides a comprehensive dashboard as well as access to telehealth features like video conferencing. Businesses can customize the system as well as make use of NetHealth resources through their API such as their WoundExpert system for triaging and treating issues in the field.
Last but not least, athenahealth is our preferred system here at Blue Label Labs. Like other comprehensive solutions in this list, they offer a ton of well-developed systems such as their EMR service, telehealth solutions, population health analytics, and many more plus, their rich API lets us create highly custom experiences.
Must-have features for a modern assisted living software
There are a lot of different ways to create value in this market, whether it’s creating a competitive, full-featured solution or something more specific. Below are a handful of features and ideas that can help you deliver a great experience.
Training staff & patients
While this is more of a concept, you can think of education as a feature or set of features in your system. Though you will have some tech-savvy users, most individuals will likely need help to learn how to use your system efficiently: when you provide an app for customers, it will likely be among their first medical apps. And for others, it could well be their very first app!
Here, there’s a bit of intersection with accessibility – which you also need to accommodate – as a sizable majority of patients will have so little experience with tech (or cognitive impairments) that there’s literally no foundation for intuition to come into play. While many of us can easily flip through a new app and familiarize ourselves with the layout and features, understand that a good chunk of patient users will need help at every step for any number of reasons. It’s a good idea to create a tutorial system that comprehensively guides a user through every action with both visual and audio elements. Plus, it helps to create some kind of collateral that will help nurses and medical staff introduce the system.
To help staff, a solid tutorial and knowledge base is useful as well. Though these users will likely be more familiar with modern tech, it should still be easy to use and add clarity.
Most insurance providers make it fairly easy to process claims using web apps and other digital tools – it’s far cry from just 10 years ago where many providers were still conducting length phone calls, exchanging faxes, or using clunky websites to pull insurance authorizations and process in-network claims!
If your app has a billing feature, insurance integrations for your partner providers is a must. You can eliminate the special kind of hell that is dealing with insurance by integrating these tools, thus helping you provide accurate pricing and streamline processing.
The silver lining of the pandemic is found in a lesson: virtual services make many processes much easier. Since video calling was called “Skyping,” businesses have been using these tools to bridge disparate teams into a more cohesive unit as well as save on significant expenses like when traveling just for the sake of honoring tradition and sealing deals with a good, firm handshake.
You can’t replace a handshake but you can use video calling to replace some in-office visits which allows medical providers to focus more on care by eliminating certain procedures like checking patients in, staging them in waiting rooms, and post-visit routines. This also saves the patient time and effort as removes the need to travel to appointments or post up in a waiting room only to get moved to a room where they often have to wait even longer.
Secure messaging for staff
Most tools for building telehealth video solutions (such as Twilio) usually offer features for building text and voice solutions as well. This is one way you can help protect privacy as offering in-app text messaging can circumvent the need for staff to text each other using their personal numbers. This is ideal for many in-home nurses and other medical professionals as many use their own devices so this helps keep their professional lives sequestered as much as possible. Plus, it’s convenient and can also connect with services like chatbots which can be designed to handle everything from customer service to supplemental mental health care.
Certain information is useful when shared among staff but it doesn’t necessarily fit or belong in a patient’s medical records. It can be simple things like helpful information such as suggestions or “tricks” for a patient who is notoriously difficult with blood draws. It could be other information too such as some insight to help flatten the adjustment curve when new staff takes over for an existing client – maybe the patient is a mean old man but he warms up to you quickly if you get him to talk about old Studebakers.
It’s important for staff to be able to attach certain information among themselves outside a patient-facing record or messaging system. This allows staff to better engage over time as this tool can help build more insight into a patient’s life than just their medical data.
Interactive scheduling system for staff
Especially for in-home care providers, a flexible scheduling system that’s highly visible for users can help ensure there are no gaps in your service. Further, good company policies on labor trading, PTO usage, vacation scheduling, and so on can soar when staff has autonomy and a solid system in place.
Scheduling should work alongside the system in place for patient scheduling. Normally, in both assisted living facilities and in-home care, patient visit schedules are arranged on the business end based on the patient’s needs, These systems should work together seamlessly to remove the chance that someone is forgotten or passed up as this can have extreme consequences and adversely affect trust.
A patient portal
An informative dashboard, as well as comprehensive access to medical data, is ideal to have regardless of whether a patient will use it or not. For assisted living software, the trend is a bit different than what we see in digital home fitness where the goal is to compile and analyze as much information as possible. Here, it’s useful to be able to create unique views for patients around their needs.
For example, you might have a senior who is highly independent but suffers from diabetes – here, it would be ideal if information relative to this condition was highly visible (e.g. “at the top”) of a dashboard that’s immediately visible after opening an app. In other cases, you may have an individual who requires a couple of telehealth therapy sessions every week, meaning it would be helpful if this feature was immediately visible. There’s also a major opportunity for secure social and community tools that can be easily accessed from the dashboard.
A lot of times, those in assisted living situations require working with a power of attorney. Providing access to a portal where they can use features, see data, and pay bills, allows them to conveniently do more for themselves.
A map tool is convenient for in-home care providers in more ways than are immediately obvious. Sure, it can help staff find a patient’s home but it can also be useful for analytics and auditing. For example, this can help provide insight into how long certain processes take and reveal opportunities to make improvements.
It’s not necessarily about learning that Mikey spends too much time chatting with a gas station clerk or Sara who loves to stick around and talk with her patients. These insights are useful to allow businesses to adjust expectations on a case-by-case scenario. For example, a process that might take thirty minutes with most patients takes an hour with geriatric patients – by providing businesses tools to acknowledge these issues, they can work to resolve them rather than leverage this data to find then correct a supposed fault from their staff.
There’s already a sizable amount of turnover with in-home healthcare professionals – this allows companies to cultivate better relationships with their employees and in turn, provide a better level of care.
Blue Label Labs can help you build your assisted living solution
Our experiences in healthcare and data-driven designs for strategy enable us to build great healthcare experiences for even the most challenging user groups. Get in touch with us today to learn more or discuss your idea today.