Automated Software System is Prescription for Efficiency, Savings for Visiting Angels

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines  |  August 01, 2010

This article originally appeared in the August 2010 issue of Unified Communications magazine.

Many of us have parents or grandparents who are getting up there in age and may need a little extra assistance to remain in their own homes. Visiting Angels is a franchise that specializes in just such care.

Anita Porter, human resource manager at the St. Louis Park, Minn., Visiting Angels says the business provides seniors with a range of assistance, including light cooking and housekeeping, running errands, providing transportation, dispensing medicine, and/or maintaining hygiene.

Porter works in the office with five other staff members, three of which are owners. Additionally, the St. Louis Park-based company has 75 field workers. With so many angels flying around, the office needs a way to track who’s visited which seniors, when and to do what.

The company used to track these activities on paper, Porter says, but recently Visiting Angels adopted technology from TouchPointCare that allows its field workers to enter such information over the phone. In the Visiting Angel application, the company provides its field workers with a telephone number through which they answer a list of prerecorded questions. That includes questions about the shift date, staff and client numbers, what type of assistance was provided, whether the client had any visitors during the shift, and whether and what medical or other changes in the client were observed.

The new solution helps staff who are visiting clients spend more time with clients and less time filling out paperwork while they’re on the job, says Porter, who adds that paper charting takes between 10 and 15 minutes on average whereas the automated system is a three- to four-minute process.

“TouchPoint has modified questions more to our needs too,” says Porter. “It’s a very efficient, streamlined system, and we have saved so much time. And it’s accurate.”

She adds that when a caregiver answers the last question on the automated system but wants to provide additional information, that triggers an e-mail to the office that there’s a caregiver that has more to say, so the office can follow up with a phone call.

Visiting Angels clients and their families also benefit because the new system can identify patterns in a client over time that may not otherwise be immediately obvious. For example, it can note a change in the client’s eating patterns, Porter says. And client families that are authorized to do so can access information about the client to make sure that individual is getting the expected services.

The automated system also delivers data to the office in real time, and in a format that is faster and easier to use, adds Porter. That enables the office, which is mandated by the state to do this charting, to know immediately when a chart is missing. And it provides Visiting Angels with a record for insurance purposes.

Dave Anderson, CEO of TouchPointCare of Libertyville, Ill., says the remote patient monitoring software company’s catchphrase is “moving data instead of people.”

While Visiting Angels uses the telephone as an interface to the TouchPoint system, Anderson says customers can elect to access the solution via wireline or wireless phone, or computer, using voice commands, or touchpads or keyboards.

The TouchPoint system is in use by hundreds of businesses, primarily in the health care vertical, he says. The company sells the solution, which includes an upfront fee and per-usage charges, via a collection of resellers, including telehealth consulting firms.

In addition to the senior home health care example exemplified by Visiting Angels, the solution can enable health care organizations to monitor or send reminders to new mothers, heart patients or others who have recently been released from the hospital or other on-site care, Anderson notes.

In fact, TouchPointCare recently enhanced its solution to enable it to trigger an action that can take place immediately or at a later date, he says. For example, if the system asked a patient whether she took her medication and she says “no”, she could receive an outbound IVR the next day to remind her to take that medication. Anderson says the company is working with GlaxoSmithKline on a trial with us along those lines.

“That kind of complexity is the kind of stuff we continue to work on,” says Anderson.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi