Health Center Debuts Electronic Monitoring System

Armstrong County Health Center Nurses Aide Selina Patterson will never have to worry about keeping a pen handy at work anymore, as officials implemented the new CareTracker electronic monitoring system earlier this month.

by Jonathan Weaver

Nursing Aides at the Armstrong County Health Center unveiled some new toys to better treat residents earlier this month.

The health center debuted CareTracker, an electronic-monitoring touch-screen chart that allows nursing aides to record resident data without the use of a clipboard.

Director of Nursing Beth Costanzo said nearly all 30 full-time and 16 part-time nursing aides have since become proficient in the practice.

“We went live December 12 – that was the big day,” Costanzo said. “We were expected to be at 95 percent compliance level, but have been at 99-100 (percent), so our staff has really done well with it – even the people that were afraid of computers.”

She explained just how much the staff has embraced it.

“Some of the staff is not computer-savvy, especially some who have been here a long time or are a little older wanted nothing to do with it. They used it for one day and were like ‘This is really easy, we really like it,’ Costanzo said. “The trainer told us from the very beginning ‘If you can order an MTO from Sheetz, you can work this program.’ And he’s absolutely right-very user-friendly.”

The implementation earlier this month came after Administrator David Mansour first requested the machines by county commissioners September 22. He explained how CareTracker will better help aides.

“We’re facing an 11 percent cut in overall Medicare reimbursement going into next year,” Monsour said. “The impetus to get CareTracker came from the idea that, to offset that Medicare funding cut, we wanted to make sure the assessment information our staff compiles is most complete and accurate to receive the maximum allowed reimbursement. By having this electronic documentation system, it offers us the opportunity to do that in the most organized and technological manner.

“They work with a resident, go to a kiosk and key in what they did (before) going to another kiosk – instead of waiting to the end of their shift to remember ‘What did I do?,’ it’s more accurate because they’re documenting as they provide the care,” Monsour said.

By talking with other facilities that use CareTracker, Monsour said he has learned those facilities receive ‘a tremendous increase’ in overall reimbursement because of the more accurate information.

“We’re anxious that it’s going to be very successful,” Monsour said.

RN Assessment Coordinator Karen Polka pushes the final buttons to send data for electronic assessment.  

Nursing aides and staff received hands-on training through Cerner Corporation of Ohio officials.

The health center chose CareTracker over other systems because of its compatibility with the care center’s in-house data transmittal system called Keane. Monsour said the documentation is a step in the right direction.

“The whole impetus in healthcare is to move toward electronic documentation. This is part of that process to show we are moving forward,” Monsour said.

CareTracker currently tracks daily care functions, including transfer meals and mood, but officials also hope to implement more features aides can record in the future, including skin condition and weight compilation.

“We will be adding more-and-more items to the CareTracker that we will be documenting until eventually that part of their job will be paperless,” Costanzo said.

Monsour said the devices cost approximately $37,000 for the first year because of initial start-up costs, but he hopes it is made-up.

“There was some initial cost involved with purchasing the system, but we anticipate the cost for purchase and annual maintenance will be offset by the savings,” Mansour said. “We’re very confident that will be the case.”

According to figures Mansour presented to county commissioners at a public meeting September 22, the initial start-up cost to run the CareTracker system is $26,000 with an annual maintenance fee of $9,200. There is also a $2,000 fee for Keane interface, which comes with an annual maintenance fee of $240.

Costanzo said facility officials first looked into acquiring the devices years ago.

“We looked at it six-or seven years ago, but it has evolved so much since then – it’s a much better system,” Costanzo said.

There are devices scattered throughout both floors of the facility and is used for the approximately-90 residents.