For 45 years, Mountain Lakes Services, headquartered in Port Henry, has provided a variety of supports for individuals with developmental disabilities. Covering the vast entirety of Essex County, the organization presently employs 596 staff members and operates an astounding 46 individual residential alternative (IRA) homes, as well as several day service sites. The organization also provides home-based supports, early childhood intervention, family supports, supported employment, and a wide array of other needed services. Yet, as large as they’d become over the years, until quite recently the entire operation relied solely on a paper-based care record system.
With the advent of DSRIP and accompanying move from a fee-for-service to a value-based care and payment model, the organization realized it needed to make the leap to an electronic health record system. “We knew we needed to make strategic decisions to prepare for the transformation to managed care and that moving to electronic records would be a key investment in our future,” stated Executive Director Martin Nephew.
After receiving DSRIP funding near the end of 2016, and a year-plus period of intensive preparatory work, the agency went live with PrecisionCare, an electronic case record software system, on January 1, 2018.
“The particular needs of developmental disability services required an electronic records solution tailored to our situation,” explained Ken Dales, Director of Service Excellence. “DSRIP funding helped us implement a system to meet those needs.”
According to Dales, the transition went much more smoothly than anticipated. New endeavors of this sort typically have bumps along the way, including the natural pushback an organization receives from staff when attempting to implement anything new or different. “To my surprise, staff readily accepted the system. Although initially intimidated, I think they quickly realized how easy it was to use and how much it would help us with record-keeping,” said Dales. “I was also concerned that staff who weren’t technically-inclined or used to using computer systems might have a tough time adapting, but people adopted it enthusiastically.”
Dales credits much of the project’s successful launch to Kristie Watrous who has served as system administrator. “Kristie spent time as the project lead doing a great deal of legwork and training staff to get them ready for the transition,” stated Dales.
Dales also points to the hard work of the service coordination team who were asked to take on the daunting task of transposing piles of records from paper to the electronic system. “I told them in the case of projects like this, there’s always going to be a lot of hard work to put in up front, but in the end, that effort will be worth it because it’ll make everyone’s lives so much simpler,” said Dales.
And while the transition to the new system is still very much a work in process, the initial benefits are already starting to show. “I’m a data person by nature who’s worked in the community services field for 30 years. I love the fact that with this system in place, I can collect data and really delve into the information to see exactly what’s going on with the individuals we serve,” explained Dales. One of DSRIP’s main focuses is on reducing avoidable emergency room visits and hospitalizations and with this software system in place, the organization can take a deep dive to uncover the causes of such events to develop strategies to reduce them.
“Having all of this data readily available has really helped us with our day-to-day operations, as well as prepare us for a value-based payment world,” stated Nephew. “We are grateful for the support of AHI and DSRIP to make this transition. It has provided us the funding to engage in projects like this that otherwise would not have happened.”