Features

Aaron Fields – St. Ann’s Community

A prescription of tech for elder care

When Aaron Fields became chief information officer at St. Ann’s Community, he was excited to be part of an organization founded nearly a century and a half ago. His goal was to keep tradition alive at the New York-based senior housing and health services provider—but interweave it with modern technology.

He saw that the care staff was manually documenting information about residents on four separate digital platforms. For instance, if nurses needed to administer a COVID-19 vaccine, they’d first enter a digital request on the pharmacy system. After they’d given the shot, they’d update St. Ann’s Community’s medical records software, myUnity. Then, they’d enter the same information in the New York state system as well as in another medical records system.

This kept staff from the residents and created an uncomfortable bottleneck, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic creating a heightened need for medical care and documentation. Seeing this, Fields began looking for a solution to the repetitive data entry.

“Utilizing tech to the best advantage is my favorite part of what I do,” he says. “I particularly love it when I can use it to give people back time in their day.”

Discovering digital cures

Field’s first step was to use software by Shasta Networks that could pull data from one platform and enter it in the other three.

Since making that change in May 2021, he’s expanded the use of the software. It’s now also used to enter redundant information in the human resources digital management tool, New York state system, the medical records system and the pharmacy system. When a nurse orders a COVID-19 vaccination, for instance, all the digital platforms are updated with the information, like when a resident received the vaccination and who administered it.

“This has saved us more than 10,000 hours, I’d guess, of manual data entry,” Field shares with Toggle. “Other nursing homes are actually hiring people to handle this data entry, whereas at St. Ann’s, we have time and money going right back to the residents.”

Looking ahead, he plans to expand the use of this software to give family members a window into residents’ lives. After signing into a portal on the website, family members will be able to see the medicine and treatment given to a loved one as well as activities the person participated in.

To meet state requirements, care staff documents everything from which meal a resident was served and how much was eaten to how well the resident is handling basic activities of daily living. Making this information available to family members seemed like the next logical step to Fields. Previously, a resident’s family could only retrieve such information through calling or speaking in-person to a nurse or other care staff member.

“We can now provide up-to-date and relevant information for not only the care staff but the loved ones of the residents we care for, all while protecting privacy and resident’s rights,” Fields says. “The challenge is working with state and federal regulations to ensure we’re compliant while still delivering a valuable experience to all involved.”

A prescription for new technology

Looking to the future, Fields wants to continue integrating new technology. He’s particularly fond of wrist-worn devices, like smart watches, that already have privacy incorporated and can track a sudden increase in heart rate, which may just mean exercise—or can indicate a fall. He’s considering placing smart devices in each room.

“None of these ideas may come to fruition, of course, but I want to explore them because they could be wonderfully beneficial not just to residents but the care staff and family members,” he says.

Because he didn’t have time to research all the possibilities, he worked with leadership to create a new role in the information technology department for handling resident engagement.

Although Fields didn’t start out in senior care, it’s these kinds of opportunities that make him excited to work in this field. He began his career in the U.S. Marine Corps. From 2003 to 2007, he trained others on information technology and worked as a network engineer. After leaving the Corps, he received his associate degree in business administration from Monroe Community College followed quickly with his bachelor’s degree in business management from St. John Fisher College in 2012.

He worked in different fields, including in store management for Target and as an IT services account manager for TEKsystems, until 2016 when he became a director of information technology for Episcopal SeniorLife Communities.

“I like delegating menial tasks to technology so people can focus on what’s important to them and get back time in their day,” Fields says. “At St. Ann’s, we can use those extra hours to build deeper relationships and connections with the people for whom we care and their families. After all, our motto is that we’re caring for the most important people on earth.”

View this feature in the Fall I 2022 Edition here.

Published on: September 26, 2022

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