Following another year in which COVID-19 and staffing shortages forced skilled nursing operators to innovate, the McKnight’s Excellence in Technology Awards drew a record number of entries.

Using a combination of creativity, tried-and-true strategies and techniques tested in other industries, the 2022 entrants showcased their willingness to embrace new tools to stay competitive and drive quality in never-before-seen conditions.

In the end, a panel of 25 esteemed judges selected 13 Gold medalists whose entries were deemed the best of the best in four categories across skilled nursing, senior living and home care divisions. The top award winners in skilled nursing were chosen for their prowess in infection control, visitor screening techniques and preventing patient falls.

Gold, Silver and Bronze medalists were honored in a dynamic tech awards virtual presentation in mid-October, the culmination of a day-long McKnight’s Tech Awards + Summit event that also included three educational webinars. That was followed on Oct. 17 by an in-person celebration held in conjunction with the LeadingAge Meeting and Expo in Denver.

“Each year, we are excited to see, recognize and share examples of how technology is being used in big and small ways to improve the lives of older adults and those who care for them,” said McKnight’s Editorial Director John O’Connor. “Each year, the competition seems to rise another notch, both in the quantity and the quality of entries. The entrants really have become quite good at emphasizing their strong points, giving the judges very difficult decisions to make,” O’Connor added. ”Not to have won, or won the top award, may mean you missed out by just a little bit.”

More than 200 people attended the live celebration in Denver, as winners, supporters and representatives of platinum sponsor Kare and gold sponsors iN2L + LifeLoop, IntelyCare and Saiva came together to recognize the honorees.

Here’s more on the 2022 Skilled Nursing award winners and how McKnight’s celebrated their accomplishments:

Quality Category

Parker Health Group wins Gold
Leaders at Parker Health Group knew they needed to keep their infection control protocols up to par — especially during a public health emergency. They set out to train all of their staff members to become experts. It was an effort they replicated across their five New Jersey skilled nursing and rehabilitation buildings with the deployment of the BioVigil Hand Hygiene Solution in early 2021.

A badge provides cues to care partners via audible, visual and vibratory reminders when they have not performed hand hygiene, whether by washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based sanitizer.

After a care partner performs hand hygiene, he or she passes their hand in front of the badge and the icon turns green. If hand hygiene is not performed within a specified time, the badge remains red.

This technology not only improved hygiene habits but also made contact tracing more efficient and accurate.

Because each “badge” is linked to the employee wearing it during their shift, any staff member who tests positive for COVID-19 or are ill in any way, can be contact-traced to all the resident rooms they entered and those they provided care for.

That feature proved invaluable in being able to quickly identify any potentially affected residents so that rapid actions can be taken through an outbreak response plan if necessary. Using the system, Parker Health Group achieved overall hand-hygiene compliance at or above 95% over a 17-month period, created time savings and efficiency among staff versus direct observation of hand hygiene practices, and garnered positive feedback from care partners and family members.

“I am very proud of our organization for this achievement,” said Carolyn Bachonski, Parker’s chief clinical officer. “BioVigil’s technology has made a significant impact on reducing in-house acquired infections, thanks to the increase in compliance with hand hygiene opportunities by the staff.”

BioVigil’s executives noted that Parker outperfomed their own initial goals.

“Rather than focusing solely on compliance, the team set a high bar in creating a culture of safety by focusing on engaging and educating, and communicating the value of hand hygiene to residents and staff,” said BioVigil President and CEO Sanjay Gupta.

Other Quality winners
Silver: Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation, of New Hyde Park, NY, for its educational video resources intended for residents
Bronze: Garden Spot Communities, of New Holland, PA, for its “Sonic Journeys” web application; and Momentum at South Bay for Rehabilitation and Nursing, of East Islip, NY, for its application of the Vios ECG monitoring system

Building Bridges Category

EmpRes Healthcare the big winner
In early 2021, EmpRes Healthcare of Vancouver, WA, was in the market for an entry management and health surveillance tool to improve operational efficiency. Maintaining a safe and sanitary environment was a crucial component of meeting regulatory expectations and keeping residents and staff safe in the midst of the pandemic.

With the implementation of the Accushield screening system across multiple facilities, EmpRes eliminated the need to staff full-time employees at facility entrances for screening purposes.

The kiosk and mobile app enabled self-screening and the capture of valuable data used for other processes. The workforce impact became all-the-more important during skilled nursing’s ongoing labor crisis.

EmpRes estimates it saved more than 45,000 labor hours and just over $135,000 through its use of Accushield. EmpRes then diverted those savings to other key initiatives.

Meanwhile, residents, staff and visitors learned to effectively use the technology without issues.

“Building connections and bridges with one another is so critical in such a hard time for our industry,” said Chief Nursing Officer Misty Reid. “We value our partnership with Accushield and continue to be excited in taking part in their constant pursuit of finding solutions to make our jobs easier caring for our residents.”

Other Quality winners
Silver: Trillium Woods, of Plymouth, MN, for implementation of the hands-free Vocera
badge system.
Bronze: Hebrew Home at Riverdale in the Bronx, NY, which adopted an ASCOM interactive nurse call system.

Keep it Super Simple Category

Signature HealthCARE is Golden
Endless paperwork can strike fear into the hearts of many healthcare professionals.

At Signature HealthCARE, the concerns mounted when leaders first saw the N95 respirator fit-testing protocols developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The Louisville, KY-based provider wanted to get the best source control into the hands of its thousands of frontline employees but would need to be compliant in doing so across more than 100 buildings.

To combat the inefficiency of traditional testing, Signature worked alongside CareAscend to create a unique digital process that allows staff and medical practitioners to electronically expedite the medical evaluation and fit-testing process. Company leaders said CareAscend’s digital process had a significant, positive impact on Sign facility time-management and the fit-testing record-keeping operations required by OSHA.

The digital fit-testing process allows staff to complete the required OSHA Fit Test medical evaluation form electronically through CareAscend’s app. The app then securely sends the completed medical evaluation form to the facility’s medical director (or another designated practitioner), along with an electronic notification that review is needed.

After review, the staff member is either approved for fit testing and use of an N95 mask, or referred to another consultant for further evaluation. N95 masks were identified as among the most effective in reducing the spread of coronavirus.

“At Signature HealthCARE we always are exploring ways to respond to new challenges in a way such that we can better the engagement of our staff so we can provide higher quality care,” said chief medical officer Arif Nazir, a past president of AMDA – The Society of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. “This award is a huge validation of our efforts.”

Other Keep It Super Simple winners
Silver: Advanced Healthcare Solutions, of Arlington, TX, for its use of Smart Meter remote
patient monitoring.
Bronze: United Church Homes of Marion, OH, for its use of SAIVA artificial intelligence software.

Innovator of the Year Category

Hewbrew Home at Riverdale earns Gold
The Bronx, NY-based nonprofit provider, part of the RiverSpring Living organization, struck Gold for its use of the Aretech ZeroG gait and balance system. The artificial intelligence-powered, body-weight support system helps therapy patients admitted to subacute rehabilitation who have more medical complexity and lower functional levels.

The system uses a ceiling track-mounted machine that connects via harness to the resident, supporting them without drag in a range of dynamic movements. This helps residents practice sit-to-stand, walking, and ascending and descending stairs without the risk of falling.

Since using the system, Hebrew Home has fully eliminated injuries and falls during physical therapy sessions. Residents also demonstrate higher-than-national averages in functional improvement based on standardized testing.

Other Innovator of the Year winners
Silver: Ecumen of Shoreview, MN, for its use of Infection Management & ABX Stewardship software.
Bronze: Cypress Living, of Fort Myers, FL, for its use of Microsoft Forms and Microsoft Power Automation.

Tech Partner of the Year Category

This year’s tech awards program also included the first all-division honor for Tech Partners of the Year, for which the Gold went to RecallCue.

The product suite features a technology that turns any tablet into a “hands-off,” easy-to-use day clock. Also, the RecallCue Connect app lets anyone communicate with a loved one remotely, with the ability to send messages and photos, set alarms and reminders, play music, share files and conduct two-way video calling.

Used in homes, retirement communities, assisted living facilities and dementia facilities, it most recently expanded to skilled nursing settings. The benefits of the product were especially impactful for homebound older adults or those living in facilities with restricted visitation during the pandemic, company leaders said.

“As a young company, this award gave us additional validation, and we saw an increase in requests for the product as well as valuable feedback from the senior care business community,” RecallCue principal Tamar Abell said. “We are excited to grow our offering and create meaningful partnerships.”

Tech Partner of the Year’s Silver winner was Kami Vision, for its fall detection and management technology. National Health Care Associates earned Bronze for its use of artificial intelligence that brings “ICU-level technology” to the monitoring of vital signs around the clock.