How Parker Achieved Digital Transformation Through an EHR Integration


Parker Health Group has led the way in aging services and is committed to our mission of discovering ways to make aging manageable, relatable, and enriching for all of society. As a not-for-profit aging services organization, we challenge by changing and expanding the idea of what it means to grow older in America. Over the last decade, we've expanded our services and gone through a rebranding of sorts and refocused our primary mission: to empower the aging population to do more of what they want to do rather than be told what they can or cannot do.

Nursing care is a big part of what we do at Parker Health Group, but it's not the only thing we want to offer our residents and their families. We also want to demonstrate how technology can play a vital role in improving experiences as people age.

Technology can help LTC facilities create better experiences as people age.

As the Director of IT Services at Parker, I've had the privilege of watching our mission hit its stride over the past 12 years. There have been a lot of changes during this time, including the increase in digitization and automation, and I couldn't be more pleased with our progress so far.

Case in point: when I first came to Parker, I could count the number of phones and laptops we owned on one hand. Post-it notes and paper reminders were more widely accepted than voicemails, and the idea of technological innovation seemed both out of sight and out of mind. That is not a reflection on Parker, but rather the slow-moving environment of the nursing home industry as seen in the past.

Let me explain.

Digitalization in the Nursing Home Industry

For many nursing homes, investments and adoption in technology has always felt more like an afterthought than a priority. The relationship between users and technology tools wasn't always antagonistic or bitter, they just don't easily see the benefits of using them. Nurses in a hurry would write their documentation on paper rather than laptops, especially if they weren't comfortable or properly trained in how to use digital applications. Front desk staff with little experience on a computer were less likely to use applications to work smarter not harder. For many years, that was sort of the way it went for the nursing home industry. But that doesn't mean the status quo can't be upended.

Twelve years ago, Parker's leadership team concluded that avoiding technological innovation was simply not sustainable. They embarked on a series of strategic planning exercises that required ripping and replacing the technology infrastructure and the legacy software they used to pave the way for more modern equipment and more cloud-based applications. 

Alongside this, we looked at the skillset of our workforce. One of the first things I did at the beginning of my Parker journey was to sit down with individual CNAs, nurses, and clinical assistants and walk them through basic computer use and the process of electronic documentation. Even today, Parker Life wants to ensure all team members have the skills they need to adapt to new technologies. New hires tell us they're surprised by the number of technologies they see during orientation, which is something I'm particularly proud of. We have a system for everything, which isn't always typical of nursing homes, but is extremely beneficial for the goal we're trying to achieve.

Nursing homes don’t have to be on the bleeding edge of technology, but they do need to keep up.

Nursing homes aren't like hospitals—we don't adopt new technology right away or start learning a new tool the day it comes out. However, we still try to stay on top of these technologies by developing clear priorities about what we want, where we're going, and what we're trying to achieve.  Our progress speaks for itself. Over the past 12 years at Parker Life, I'm pleased to say we've created a technology backbone and an expanded technology portfolio that both extensive and future-proof. And I can comfortably say that at the center of this portfolio lies a list of applications all talking to PointClickCare.

The Advent of PointClickCare

PointClickCare made its way into Parker Life in 2016. Our previous EHR was slow, clunky, and a lot of the workflows are only semi-automatic, making us jump through hoops to streamline our processes. We acquired a facility in 2016 that used PointClickCare, and Parker as an organization decided to move towards making it our new standard EMR.

Over the course of 18 months, we slowly but deliberately rolled out the platform to all our existing facilities. We've since plugged into nearly all modules i.e., Infection Prevention & Control, Pharmacy, Lab & Imaging, and Document Manager. We also acquired and implemented a couple of third-party applications to automate other business processes and as part of our COVID-19 response plans.

And just like any other IT Department, we were often asked to make sure that these systems talk to each other—something we were able to do easily with PointClickCare.

How Marketplace Integration Led to Improved Care

In the pre-PointClickCare era, we faced several challenges finding vendors and partners that integrated with our EHR. When I say integrate, I mean seamlessly connecting our platforms—no manual exporting of data through reports and massaging the data so it can be imported from one platform to the other. I've found that during product demonstrations the salesperson always throws out the word "PointClickCare-integrated" all throughout the presentation, but if you aren’t asking the right questions or reading the fine print, you won’t know that their “integration” actually requires a ton of manual work for the IT Team.

Truly seamless integrations with your EHR can free up time and streamline your operations.

This is how Marketplace Integration made such a huge impact on Parker Life. Rather than adding to our teams' already pressing workload of manually moving data to/from PointClickCare we simply verify if the system is a vetted application in the Marketplace portal.  If they are, then we just turn on that integration like flipping a switch.  It takes between 1-3 days after you submit the activation request within the portal which just takes a few clicks and voilà! Data starts flowing either in one or both directions.

This blew my mind. Ever since the first time we integrated with a PointClickCare-vetted vendor, we knew it was the route we wanted to take 90% of the time. Now, every time there's a decision to replace one system with another, we use Marketplace Integration to weigh our options. We can browse a list of other applications that are already talking to PointClickCare without worrying about the cost of developing custom solutions to facilitate that integration with the resident chart.  

Using a vendor from Marketplace Integration aids us in so many ways. First, it helps us find partners who are the right fit for our organization without wasting lots of time in the process. Second, it allows us to quickly integrate with available solutions without needing to struggle through the rigmarole of manual implementation. Unless there's a compelling case to use something off-platform, we're relying on PointClickCare to take advantage of pre-existing partnerships and get the systems talking to each other in a matter of days. In fact, of the 12 integrations we currently use in our nursing homes, more than a third of them were found through Marketplace Integration. 

For example, our dining services team is using an application that knows about our resident's latest diets, allergies and preferences, our vital stats machine easily capture measurements for all active residents, and our telehealth devices exposes the resident chart in real-time to the physician conducting the virtual consultation. It frees up a lot of time as our care partners no longer have to do double-entry on these external applications and this is valuable time given back to resident care.

I've found that Marketplace Integrations are the best place to start when looking for a specific function. I like to compare it to the App Store or the Google Play Store: you go there knowing whatever you get will play well with the system you already have and look through platforms that are pre-researched and pre-vetted on my behalf. Plus, all the vendors within Marketplace specialize within the product they sell in the way that PointClickCare specializes on the different areas within the EHR.

Compliance mandates in this industry usually vary state by state, which leaves the burden of conformity on the customer. However, PointClickCare is already ahead of the curve. They ensure all their partners are compliant with whatever rules are applicable to customers in different states. I don't have to worry about data being incomplete or inconsistent. PointClickCare makes sure that all things work seamlessly together, and this brings me amazing peace of mind.

Integrations helps us provide care that is Manageable, Relatable, and Enriching

Marketplace Integration means PointClickCare as an EHR vendor can focus and specialize on their core product. Instead of trying to develop and accommodate all third party integration requirements, PointClickCare leverages their partnerships with other companies who are already experts in their own products and have dedicated resources for integration testing and development.

This frees up PointClickCare to pour everything they have into developing an outstanding EHR platform while still delivering the functionality and deliverability needed to thrive in a fast-paced market. And surrounded by digital innovation, I think this is the right move.

If I tried to build everything in-house or hire a team of developers to integrate specific platforms with our EHR, Parker Life wouldn’t be a nursing home anymore—we would basically be a software shop. The goal is to create value without sapping vital resources and stay ahead of the curve without sacrificing what we do best: caring for our residents and provide our employees the best technology tools to help them in their work. That's exactly what PointClickCare is doing, and just what Parker Life is looking for in its technology partners.  And together, we're going to make aging a better part of life—one integration at a time.