Imagine being able to research the ideal Personal Care Home (PCH) for your loved one as easily as you look for the perfect hotel room.

Creating a web-based, searchable directory of Personal Care Homes in Saskatoon Health Region is a project the 90 Days of Innovation: Ready Every Day Community Strategies team is currently investigating after it was suggested by PCH operators, patients and families, and staff.

The paper-based Personal Care Homes directory

The idea is to replace the current paper-based Personal Care Home directory with a web-based, searchable version that shows more details about the different care homes.

“Every group we met with had the same idea,” said Albert Matthies, a member of the Community Strategies team. “They suggested an interactive website where the user can search for the type of home and type of care necessary, the location that’s the best, and know which places have vacancies.”

The team met with Personal Care Home operators to see how the Region could partner with them to help the industry, Matthies said.

“They told us they have many vacancies in their facilities – mostly because they have trouble connecting to clients.”

A meeting with patients and families who had previously or were currently trying to navigate to a PCH told the team the current process can be “intimidating and overwhelming.”

Right now, families and patients looking for a place in a PCH are presented with a 20-page paper directory. It’s kept updated, but contains only names of the homes and contact information – little information on levels of care offered, location, amenities, or possible openings.

“Essentially, families have to start cold-calling these facilities, much as you would looking for a service through the Yellow Pages,” Matthies said.  “Families tell us they can make 15 phone calls before they find one vacancy and another 10 before they find another, just so their loved one has an option. The time it takes to navigate through the directory can seem insurmountable, especially when they are dealing with a massive life change at the same time.”

Social workers within acute care departments are tasked with helping families navigate the system, but due to other demands, feel unable to do that justice, Matthies noted. PCH owners who have had contact with certain social workers update those people about vacancies, but whether families find out about vacancies is hit and miss.

The idea behind this website is that it would be similar in concept to those of travel services like Expedia or Travelocity, listing the levels of care offered by each, whether the building has stairs or other important features, and with a mapping feature similar to the multiple listing service (MLS) used by realtors.

“Being able to narrow the search with a click of the mouse is the ideal,” said Matthies.

Not only would a website along these lines empower the patient, it would provide a better connection between PCH operators and their potential residents, and allow for less rework as the paper directory would no longer have to be updated.

Their main goal by creating such a website, however, is to improve a tense experience for families and clients.

“When, for instance, an elderly lady has a stroke, she is rushed to the emergency room, perhaps has surgery, and will likely spend significant time in the hospital undergoing treatment, rehabilitation and assessment. That’s two or three major catastrophic events, before she finds out she can no longer manage at home, that she will need the assistance of a personal care home,” said Matthies. “We need to make it easier for her and her family to find her a new place to live that will meet her needs in every way. It’s the right thing to do. And we hope this website will do that.”

While the Region has the resources to build such a site, the team is currently searching for more input from the community, specifically from PCH operators.

“We really need to understand more broadly what would work for the community, and for personal care homes,” Matthies said. “We need feedback from operators to get a true sense of how such a site could meet their needs.”

To that end, the team will be working with their community partners and those within the Region with connections to PCH operators to talk about this initiative.

“PCH owners are business owners – they have a vested interest in keeping their rooms full, and they’re spending a lot of money on marketing. I think this is a real opportunity for them to reach those they need to reach easily. But more importantly, it puts our patients and clients in touch with those they need to reach when they need to change their living situation.”

A project like this incorporates a number of Lean principles, Matthies noted, including waste reduction, simplification, a system that’s easy to use but of good quality, and one that puts the patient first.

The website is currently in the design phase. Ideally, it would be up and running in June, but the focus right now is not on a specific launch date but ensuring it works the way it needs to, and is sustainable in the long run.

If anyone would like to give the PCH website team feedback, or you would like to get involved in the project, contact Albert at Albert.Matthies@saskatoonhealthregion.ca.

See more stories about Region improvements at www.saskatoonhealthregion.ca/ReadyEveryDay.