Michele Hart-Henry

Starting October 1, 2016, new post-acute care quality measures take effect. The new regulation called the IMPACT ACT will require long-term care facilities to report information on the quality and efficacy of the care provided to their residents. This new measure comes a few months after a series of high-profile articles brought attention to instances of improper care provision in several large nursing homes.

As a result of these new measures, long-term care administrators are evaluating their therapy techniques, which is hard to do in a red-tape-heavy industry. But they aren’t alone in the scramble to meet the goals of the IMPACT ACT. Technology companies such as Lingraphica are thinking about how to provide high-tech therapy solutions in a new more-regulated yet cost averse era of care delivery.  

Lingraphica’s online therapy platform, TheraPath, can be used as a skilled therapy tool and also as a mechanism to create and monitor functional maintenance programs. In a pilot study, our results were nothing shy of impressive and helped us establish a unique approach that leverages a multidisciplinary therapy tool that improves patient outcomes while reducing costs in a long-term care setting.   

Increasing visibility and standardization

Long-term care administrators often oversee hundreds of clinicians who manage large caseloads. As such, it is difficult to monitor every resident’s therapy plan. Administrators and managers need a single, unifying technology tool that offers a consolidated view of both patient performance over time and an ever-growing but consistent set of therapeutic activities. This visibility can help them ensure care delivery is compliant with the new IMPACT ACT regulations.

Knowing this, we partnered with Hallmark Rehabilitation, now a partner of a larger, national healthcare organization, to use TheraPath as a post-skilled therapy tool to engage their residents in ongoing speech care. Our efforts showed residents suffering from aphasia and/or recovering from a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or even dementia benefitted from daily speech exercises administered on an iPad and web platform. We were able to engage patients beyond the walls of the therapy room and improve MDS and BIMS scores in all of our study participants. We were most impressed that we were able to maintain or improve some of these scores in only 90 days.

The value of working at the top of a license

Speech-language pathologists and other trained therapists are most valuable when conducting assessments and delivering skilled therapy services. When able to apply this skill set on a consistent and daily basis, we contribute to the concept of working at the top of a license. By using technology, such as TheraPath, rote daily drill or practice work can be delegated to care extenders such as CNAs, activities directors, community volunteers or even family members.

In our study, we found caregivers, nursing assistants, activities directors, and other long-term care non-skilled staff to be extremely capable of carrying out the daily drills on TheraPath. Using our TheraPath program with residents on a daily basis, care extenders were able to deliver a plan of care outlined by the treating clinician. The clinician simply needed to monitor the resident’s data and reports found in the platform to understand when a new assessment was needed.

Our research showed that when residents with aphasia or mild cognitive impairment received daily therapeutic exercises administered by a caregiver or a nursing aide, the resident’s risk for isolation and depression decreased. The daily interaction proved to be essential to the success of the pilot study.

Data, data, data

With larger caseloads and more demand for a standardized approach to compliant therapy, clinicians are relying on technology.

Rather than using a hardcopy worksheet, using therapy delivered via an iPad, clinicians can can track a patient’s activity. With color-coded reports, videos, annotations and details about the patient’s progress, clinicians can see the effectiveness of their plan of care and make adjustments as necessary. No paperwork, worksheets or copying required!

For patients, the technology increases the quality of care as they are able to practice as needed. For clinicians, they are able to plan and work at the top of their license with the added benefit of maximing the time they can spend on their caseload. For the organization, there is greater visibility across the continuum of care, and that care is delivered in a more cost effective way.

Takeaways for the industry

The demands of today’s healthcare industry require long-term care leaders to boldly embrace new therapeutic technologies. We know the outcomes to be extremely beneficial to residents and patients in the care of long-term providers, but it’s only effective if there is a facility-wide adoption. By relying on a single rehabilitation care therapy soloution, care providers and clinicians can standardize care, maintain compliance with Medicare, and bring the best therapy tools to their patients and residents.

Michele Hart-Henry is the Lingraphica Vice President for Innovation, Sales & Marketing. To learn more, visit therapath.lingraphica.com or email [email protected]