MU Researchers aim to better nursing home, hospital communication
COLUMBIA - A group of MU researches said Wednesday many nursing homes do not have the resources they need to properly track resident healthcare.
The team from MU Sinclair School of Nursing assessed 16 nursing homes and evaluated their ability to communicate with hospitals about resident dietary needs, medications or to complete other administrative activities. The group aimed to increase patient health outcomes by increasing secure communication using an electronic system called Health Information Exchange (HIE).
Researchers assessed current communication systems in place and found many nursing homes used technology to keep track of patient medications or schedule appointments, but those communication systems were often separate.
"The exchange of accurate, complete and timely information between hospitals and nursing homes can be complicated when other adults transfer from one place to another, said Greg Alexander, lead researcher of the study, "We want to prepare nursing homes to communicate externally as well as internally so that care transitions smoothly and patients have better health outcomes."
Alexander and his team concluded many nursing homes need additional technological and human resources to build and implement an effective HIE network.
With funding from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the team purchased equipment to improve communication infrastructure for the facilities. The group then conducted 32 hours of observation and 230 interviews to see how staff integrated HIE into their workflow.
Alexander said, "Our goal was to develop a more integrated system by providing an information exchange that could be used by all stakeholders involved in patient care. We want to build a network through identifying key players and their needs."
The team's next step was to evaluate whether HIE improves communication about resident care, and how nursing home and hospital employees can integrate the system into their workflow.
Alexander was the co-principal investigator on a $14.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The grant was intended to reduce avoidable re-hospitalizations among nursing home residents.