Background: The provision of residential aged care is underpinned by information, and is reliant upon systems that adequately capture and effectively utilise and communicate this information. The aim of this study was to explicate and quantify the volume and method by which information is collected, exchanged within facilities and with external providers, and retrieved from facility information systems and hospitals.
Methods: A survey of staff (n = 119), including managers, health informatics officers (HIOs), quality improvement staff, registered nurses (RNs), enrolled nurses (ENs)/endorsed enrolled nurses (EENs) and assistants in nursing (AINs) was carried out in four residential aged care facilities in New South Wales and Victoria, Australia. Sites varied in size and displayed a range of information technology (IT) capabilities. The survey investigated how and by whom information is collected, retrieved and exchanged, and the frequency and amount of time devoted to these tasks. Descriptive analysis was performed using SPSS, and open responses to questions were coded into key themes.
Results: Staff completed a median of six forms each, taking a median of 30 min per shift. 68.8% of staff reported transferring information from paper to a computer system, which took a median of 30 min per shift. Handover and face-to-face communication was the most frequently used form of information exchange within facilities. There was a large amount of faxing and telephone communication between facility staff and General Practitioners and community pharmacists, with staff reporting sending a median of 2 faxes to pharmacy and 1.5 faxes to General Practitioners, and initiating 2 telephone calls to pharmacies and 1.5 calls to General Practitioners per shift. Only 38.5% of respondents reported that they always had information available at the point-of-care and only 35.4% of respondents reported that they always had access to hospital stay information of residents after hospital discharge.
Conclusions: This survey identified a high volume of information exchange activities, as well as inefficient procedures, such as the transfer of information from paper to computer systems and the reliance upon faxes for communication with external providers. These findings contribute to evidence for the need for interoperable IT systems to allow more efficient and reliable information exchange between facilities and external providers.