Long-term care (LTC) software offers solutions for the workflows, administration, tracking, data, and myriad problems associated with managing long-term care patients, facilities, staff, and regulatory procedures.
The long-term care industry is undergoing rapid growth at a time that the greater healthcare market is shifting to curtail increasing costs. Long-term care, palliative care, end-of-life care, home health care, hospice — call it what you will, according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS), 70 percent of people turning age 65 can expect to use some form of long-term care during their lives.1 The U.S., in particular, faces issues with the aging Baby Boomer generation. The 65-and-older population jumped 15.1 percent between 2000–20102, and 14 percent of the U.S. population — or 44.2 million persons — are now age 65 or older.3
It’s not just the U.S. population that is aging. The United Nations estimates that 21.1 percent of the global population will be 60 or older by 2050 — more than two billion by current estimates.4 It’s no surprise that the global long-term care software market is forecast to grow from $1.02 billion in 2013 to more than $2 billion by 2019.5 North America holds the largest share of the marketplace, with Japan, China, India, and Latin America also seeing rapid growth. Continued economic expansion in these regions is expected to increase the demand for both long-term care facilities and long-term care software.5
Unlike the greater medical software market, there aren’t many current vendors of LTC software. This will surely change as the market continues to grow. Also, as is the case with most commercial software applications, vendors are increasingly offering cloud-based LTC systems. Many facilities with existing platforms could see numerous benefits by switching from an on-premise to a web-based or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution, including reduced infrastructure costs, reduced need for IT support, mobile device support, and anytime/anywhere access.
There are a number of factors to consider when comparing long-term care software. The LTC market is highly specialized. With the exception of larger vendors, most systems are designed for a single care delivery model. Software designed to administer, track, and care for a large, on-site patient population at a nursing home, a continuing care retirement community, or an assisted living facility will be very different from systems designed for home health services such as in-home skilled nursing or hospice care. Some larger facilities even require functionality approaching that of a full enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to manage building, staff, and equipment. Before you can begin the process of selecting a LTC software vendor, you’ll need to answer the following four questions:
Once you've answered the above questions, it’s time to figure out which of the main subcategories of long-term care software will best fit your requirements.
Since long-term care software is highly specialized, subdividing the market into general categories is difficult but necessary when attempting to make a purchase decision. The best method of segmentation is typically by intended end users:
Nursing homes, CCRCs, skilled nursing facilities, and similar care delivery environments require numerous software systems to manage resident health. These include clinical systems such as electronic medical records (EMR), electronic medication administration records (eMAR) and electronic treatment administration records (eTAR), financial management and billing software for managing insurance claims, self-pay, and resident accounts, and software for reporting the minimum data set at Medicare/Medicaid-certified facilities. Some vendors offer all of these features in a single system, but the majority offer individual modules for different areas of care. These include:
While assisted and independent living facilities have many similarities to nursing homes, CCRCs, or SNFs — they all generally have large populations, bill similar entities, and manage similar workflows — ALFs (and especially ILFs) may not need the full spectrum of clinical functionality required by their cousin facilities. Long-term care software for ALFs and ILFs typically offer all of the functionality outlined above. ALFs and ILFs however aren’t certified by Medicare/Medicaid, and aren’t always responsible for managing residents’ care. That means most of these facilities don’t need an EMR or MDS system, though most vendors do offer it if required. Also, some ALFs may deploy a medications management or point-of-care system, depending upon the needs of their resident population.
Software systems for home health care delivery require some of the same functionality as systems for facility-based long-term care — charting, eMAR, notes, orders, etc. — as well as tracking and task management features like electronic visit verification (EVV), GPS tracking, and more. Also, unlike systems for ALFs/ILFs or other facility-based care models, mobile access is absolutely essential for home health care workers. The majority of these systems are cloud-based, and offer either a mobile-optimized web interface or a native mobile application for iPad or Android tablets and smartphones. The functionality they offer, while similar to the above software categories, has features specific to home health workflows and reporting requirements:
Company: Allegan County Medical Care Facility6
Allegan County Medical Care Facility (ACMCF), located in Allegan, Mich., was one of the first long-term care organizations to begin using PowerChart LTC — Cerner’s electronic health record (EHR) for long-term care.
Kim Turcott, the assistant administrator at ACMCF, shared the journey her organization went through when implementing PowerChart LTC. According to Kim, the leadership group at ACMCF is a small, close-knit, and flexible team. They acknowledged the risk of being the first to try a new solution, and their decision to partner with Cerner was based on several factors. The main reason was six years of positive experiences using Cerner CareTracker, a point-of-care solution for tracking activities of daily living, along with dehydration risk, skin problems, poor intake, behavioral concerns, weight gain/loss, and more. Additionally, PowerChart LTC is built from the same foundational EHR platform used by several of Allegan’s hospital referral partners.
“If we spend less time doing med pass, less time doing documentation, and more time with residents, that’s what it’s all about.” – Kim Turcott, Assistant Administrator ACMCF
Shortly after implementing the solution ACMCF bebgan seeing improvements. Initial comments from the care team included remarks about how thin the admission packet had become, and how excited they were to send legible order sheets out of PowerChart LTC directly to the pharmacy. The MDS staff reported saving time because each resident’s demographic information flowed all the way from the registration system to the MDS.
“It’s been really great for us to be able to go into a room and do the charting right there with the resident there. We’ve already seen a decrease in overtime. In the first week we saw people who had previously been working late start to get out on time.” Kim Turcott, Assistant Administrator ACMCF.
While Cerner’s long-term care software offerings were a great fit for ACMCF, your organization may have different needs. Solutions from different vendors will offer similar functionality, but may subtract or add features depending on which sort of care delivery setting the system is designed to serve. Depending on whether or not you’d like an integrated suite of applications or a standalone solution for one or more functions, the following vendors may offer a better solution for your needs:
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