$1 million grant to help Missouri nursing homes switch from faxing to texting

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(Jhe Center Square) – University of Missouri researchers are using a $1 million federal grant to help nursing home staff switch from fax machines and voicemail to texting.

Kimberly Powell, an assistant professor at the MU School of nursing and principal investigator of the research project, said about $2.6 billion a year is spent transferring residents from nursing homes to hospitals, and that 60 % of transfers are avoidable. Powell and his team examine how texting can reduce delays in care decisions, allow residents to be cared for safely in the nursing home, and reduce costly and sometimes traumatic transfers to caregivers. hospitals.

“We’re trying to put a system in place where we recognize changes in someone’s condition early enough that the resident can be safely managed where they are,” Powell told The Center Square. “It’s very stressful to transfer a resident from a nursing home to the hospital and also for his family and friends. It’s not a good scenario unless there is no other option, such as a fall or other acute injury that requires going to the hospital.”

Nursing home staff often wait for faxes or voicemails to return for directions from physicians, social workers, specialists, therapists, registered nurses and family members of the resident. By the time staff receive a response, it is often too late to administer effective assistance. It is estimated that two-thirds of nursing home residents have some form of dementia, which also contributes to delays in treatment.

The three-year grant is funded by the National Institute of Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Powell will investigate the effectiveness of a secure texting platform used in a previous study by nursing home staff at 16 Missouri facilities. This study was part of the Missouri Quality Improvement Initiative, a $35 million program funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. The initiative also placed full-time advanced practice registered nurses in nursing homes to reduce preventable hospitalizations.

“Texting is a bit more complicated in the healthcare environment because we have to worry about patient privacy and data security,” Powell said. “But it’s possible. And it’s mind-boggling why we haven’t done this from the start. But what’s equally shocking is that so many nursing homes still use fax machines to communicate. ”

Reducing preventable hospitalizations could save taxpayers millions of dollars allocated to pay Medicaid and Medicare costs. However, Powell’s main motivation is to help patients.

“My primary interest is improving the quality of life for nursing home residents, many of whom are very vulnerable,” Powell said. “Many nursing homes are associated with poor quality of care, so my main focus is to improve patients’ quality of life and outcomes. Cost savings are the icing on the cake.”

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