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The Sheltering Arms Institute: Success with Quality Management Software, Synergi Life

Improving patient care and staff experience with Synergi Life

Sheltering Arms Institute, a physical rehabilitation facility in Virginia, USA, is dedicated to helping its patients ​​rebuild their lives. It offers post-acute care after traumatic injuries, including brain, spine, and transplantations. The Institute has beds for up to 114 acute patients and provides outpatient services at eight satellite sites. Synergi Life’s Healthcare Quality Management software from DNV supports Sheltering Arms Institute by improving patient care and staff experience.

A time-saving incident management tool was needed

In 2020, when Sheltering Arms Institute first opened, its quality department implemented its incident reporting on paper. With time, they started to see areas that needed improvement. The paper system sometimes experienced delays in the reporting process as the paper had to travel over several desks before delivery. When the report arrived, the following steps involved time-eating manual data entry and follow-up. The quality department had reduced capability to give staff feedback as they had to track down staff members via emails or appointments. 

As the quality department matured, they needed greater work capacity. When researching areas to improve efficiency, they found that using an incident management tool could save them time and boost incident reporting, improve tracking, decrease missing reports, and increase legibility and confidentiality.  

Soon, the quality department qualified several software companies but found none that met their needs; the software systems were designed for hospitals, not post-acute care facilities. In addition, they exceeded the department’s budget. They had heard about Synergi Life and requested that DNV demonstrate how a customized solution for patient occurrence reporting could meet its specific needs.

Inside the Sheltering Arms Institute

Customizable software for occurrence reporting in healthcare

When the DNV Synergi Life team arrived in Richmond, Virginia, for the initial customization, they carefully reviewed the paper forms and reporting processes. After discussions with staff, the Synergi Life team built a customized patient reporting system for occurrence reporting, which encompasses the tracking of: 

  • Medication errors 
  • Near misses 
  • Patient falls  
  • Patient complaints 
  • Physician professional performance evaluations and peer reviews 
  • Rapid responses and transfers back to acute care 
  • Other patient safety occurrences  

Efficient and accessible patient safety reporting system 

With Synergi Life, Sheltering Arms Institute can implement solutions that improve safety. All reports are automatically organized by type, location, severity level, etc., so the quality department can identify trends, find root causes, mitigate risks, and ultimately implement solutions that improve safety.

In addition, every step of the patient safety reporting process has become more efficient. Cases that once took weeks can now be handled in days. Katie Ilch, Interim Director of Quality at Sheltering Arms Institute explains, “Sometimes papers would be delayed before I saw them. Today, everything is at my fingertips on my phone or at my computer.” Now the quality department can ask additional questions, send automated follow-ups, or simply thank staff for reporting an issue. Ilch continues, “Staff benefit because they can see the action taken due to their report. They know their report has made our facility a safer place.” 

Meet regulations for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

Sheltering Arms Institute saves staff time and lessens manual work by using Synergi Life to fulfill several CMS requirements. Previously, its contract evaluation and physician report cards involved complex paper trails. Now, they have adapted the software to be an electronic contract management database. It tracks contracts and all related forms to make contract evaluations simpler.

The system makes renewal a simple click instead of a trail of paperwork. Ilch explains, “It just makes managing so much easier. We can set deadlines for renewal when a contract is about to expire. It’s been fantastic to get rid of some of our many, many spreadsheets and hold people accountable in the day-to-day work of running a hospital.”

DNV is one of the CMS accreditation bodies. DNV annually audits Sheltering Arms Institute to ensure CMS standards are followed. If an improvement opportunity is found during the audit, Sheltering Arms Institute can use Synergi Life to track the progress of that improvement.  

Stakeholders understand the value of using software for quality management

Asking staff to change from a ‘system that works’ to a new quality management software always takes time. While some naturally resisted change initially, staff now see the quick response time and the value of keeping patients and staff safer. Everyone involved in the patient safety perspective has a Synergi Life account, including nurses, therapists, physicians, and care managers. The change has helped shift the focus from the issues to seeing the root causes and solving the challenges.

patients undergo treatment at Sheltering Arms Institute

When reporting a safety event, staff simply log into their account and submit a form. Instantaneously, the quality department sees it and follows up quickly. “Instead of them filling out a piece of paper and me having to chase down a manager asking for follow-up, it’s all in one system. I also get email notifications when a new report is filed, so I can keep abreast of any emergency cases,” says Ilch. 

Sheltering Arms Institute fosters a just culture that encourages staff accountability for patient safety. The digital solution has helped staff understand that reporting errors result in learning rather than reprimanding. The staff, including those at the eight outpatient clinics, can see that open, honest reporting results in a transparent reaction where reports lead to changes that prevent repeated problems.  

Expanding Quality Management Software Usage

Over the next few years, the quality department aims to build out more of its manual processes. They plan to transition from paper reports of employee injuries to digital reporting, similar to its digital system for patient injury reports. Then they can have the same tracking and follow-up benefits for reporting employee safety concerns.

About Sheltering Arms Institute 

Sheltering Arms Institute, a collaboration with VCU Health, is a cutting-edge inpatient physical rehabilitation facility and network of outpatient centers. Its collaborative approach integrates research, technology, and clinical expertise to help patients recover from various diseases, illnesses, and injuries.

Inside Sheltering Arms Institute

By blending advanced technology with evidence-based care, Sheltering Arms Institute aims to redefine rehabilitation, offering personalized treatment that supports recovery and enables individuals to reach their full potential. They strive to deliver exceptional care through science, research, education, community involvement, and stewardship. 


Customer name: Sheltering Arms Institute  


Market: Healthcare 

Team Members: 713

Product: Synergi Life – Quality Management Module 

How Synergi Life supports patient safety

Why Sheltering Arms Institute chose Synergi Life:

  • Synergi Life is configurable to the needs of a physical rehabilitation facility. 
  • A supportive and attentive Synergi Life team committed to putting in the extra effort to ensure accurate tool configuration. 

What Sheltering Arms Institute gained with Synergi Life: 

  • Reduced turn-around time for patient reporting. Staff in the quality department have more bandwidth to solve challenges rather than manage paperwork. 
  • Closed the patient reporting loop. Staff members can follow its report in Synergi Life from start to finish and understand their impact on patient safety. 
  • Access to patient reporting 24/7 that allows for immediate follow-up. 
  • Trend tracking for leadership. Reports are now automatically turned into visual dashboards so decision-makers can access information whenever needed. 
Katie Ilch, Sheltering Arms Institute

Before, it was difficult to track down staff members, thank them for reporting, and explain the actions we’d taken. I can now close the loop. It allows for better communication for staff and more efficient care for patients.

  • Katie Ilch ,
  • Interim Director of Quality ,
  • Sheltering Arms Institute

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