Engaging families in resident care

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Tom Bang
Tom Bang

One of the greatest challenges facing family members of long-term care residents is staying informed about the care their loved ones are receiving. Caregivers are committed to enhancing care, yet with a lack of communication, family members may jump to an erroneous, negative conclusion and relationships between them and LTC providers become strained. Families feel better about the level of care being provided with information available in near-real time.

What if family members could simply log on to a cloud-based portal and view the care notes on their loved one, including medications (and when they were administered), recent vitals and dietary menus? How about seeing social activities, visitors, next scheduled hair cut or any other information LTC administrators choose to share?

We've all heard of patient portals, but are you familiar with family portals? Family portals address the human desire to remain connected with those we love, where others are providing their care and family members live far away. FamilyConnect allows LTC providers to offer family members “controlled transparency” into the daily lives of their loved ones. FamilyConnect relieves nurses and caregivers from the challenge of corresponding with family members, freeing them to spend more time caring for residents.

Through my own personal experiences, I know firsthand nurses and caregivers do care to share this information with their residents' loved ones.

Earliest user

Guardian Angel Homes in Post Falls, ID, was one of the first to use FamilyConnect. With 30 buildings across five campuses in Idaho and Oregon, Guardian Angel Homes was one of the first to break away from the hospital-style model (with its long hallways and sterile décor) to a more home-like setting. They implemented FamilyConnect enterprise-wide in 2008 along with their electronic health records system (from VorroHealth, formerly BlueStep) after testing nearly two dozen systems. They even customized FamilyConnect to match the branding on their website.

Guardian Angel Homes' administrators attest that one of the intangible benefits of a family portal is it helps combat the adversarial relationship that often develops between families and LTC providers. Headline-grabbing stories about nursing homes taint families' perception of caregivers. Being able to see clinical information and notes on their loved one's daily activities gives them not just peace of mind but a better appreciation of all the things caregivers do.

EHR Integration of Family Portal

A family portal by design should not increase the workload of nurses and caregivers. With FamilyConnect, selected clinical data is automatically populated when entered into the VorroHealth EHR, eliminating the need for double entry.

In addition, FamilyConnect can send automatic emails or text reminders to family members about significant life events such as birthdays or anniversaries. The messages include resident's phone number and online ordering for flowers, food or other gift items for direct delivery to the resident. Families may also upload pictures and stories about their loved one, allowing staffers a personal look at the residents for whom they care.

Family portals offer a unique way to keep families engaged with residents, enhance relationships between family members and LTC providers, and free caregivers' time to focus on providing enhanced quality care.  

Tom Bang is CEO of VorroHealth (formerly BlueStep/BridgeGate Health), a health IT company that delivers interoperable technology for seniors and healthcare providers in long term and post-acute care. He is a healthcare IT veteran who held senior leadership positions at A-Life Medical (now part of United Healthcare/Optum Health), Pyxis (Cardinal Health), MediTROL, American Hospital Supply and Baxter International.



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