The time is right for LTPACs to onboard technology
July 31, 2014 in Medical Technology
Although electronic health record adoption is more saturated in hospitals and physician practices, long-term and post-acute care organizations have not been as quick to adopt this technology. However, the situation is rapidly changing as several key drivers have emerged and are propelling the LTPAC and assisted living markets forward.
LTPAC providers historically have not been as fast to adopt EHR technology for several reasons, but the exclusion of Meaningful Use incentives was a key barrier. The Meaningful Use incentive program was a key driver of EHR adoption in the hospital and ambulatory market by providing funding for using HIT. Furthermore, many LTPAC organizations were unsure how EHRs could improve the complex clinical workflows they had in place to deal with high acuity patients.
Today, however, those perceptions are being transformed. Forward-thinking LTPACs are shifting their focus toward EHR technology advancement and adoption.
Drivers pushing EHR adoption
Much has transpired within the healthcare industry over the past five years, and LTPAC providers are no longer asking whether or not they should adopt EHR technology. Instead, they are probing into when they should adopt it and how to select the right solutions for their unique needs.
One key driver pushing this emphasis on EHR adoption is the Affordable Care Act, which puts more economic pressure on the entire healthcare industry by demanding greater coordination across the continuum of care. Consequently, LTPAC organizations that want to position themselves to work effectively with hospitals and other referring organizations must have an effective technology infrastructure that facilitates information sharing and care coordination.
Another factor is the evolving reimbursement environment, which is forcing LTPAC providers to demonstrate the quality of care they provide while meeting cost benchmarks. To do this effectively, organizations need sophisticated documentation and data reporting that manual processes simply cannot support.
At the same time, patients and their families have developed higher expectations in regard to the delivery of services. Being accustomed to using technology in other aspects of consumer life—such as ordering books or paying bills online, for example—they now want it in healthcare, too. As consumer technology becomes more commonplace in doctors’ offices and hospitals, it is increasingly expected in LTPAC facilities. More than ever, as patients and families seek a partner in care, LTPACs are recognizing that technology is a welcome enabler of this collaborative relationship.
One last—but significant—adoption influencer lies in the risks associated with maintaining the technology status quo. Without access to accurate, real-time data and information, LTPACs will be hard pressed to tie together care quality and costs now demanded by payers, referral sources and patients. The inability to prove care quality, for instance, likely will result in a lower census due to fewer referrals from sources that require more effective, proactive information management. As a result, LTPACs that do not embrace technology will experience reduced margins and find it difficult to stay afloat for the long term.
Key characteristics of LTPAC-focused technology
There is little question that building a technology foundation allows LTPACs to be more efficient, access better information and provide higher quality care—all of which are critical to future success. Yet the needs of an LTPAC are unique, so it is important to adopt a system with the right outcomes in mind.
To support a robust LTPAC-focused technology strategy, consider these characteristics when evaluating EHR options:
- Integrated solution. The ideal EHR platform is driven from the clinical workflows and marries them with the necessary financial components. While it is critical for LTPACs to tie costs with quality, they must start with an EHR that fully supports strong clinical workflows, then loops in the financial side.
- Rich in clinical decision support. Technology that fosters better clinical decision making also enhances care consistency and standardization. Rather than retrospective reports that identify areas to improve, clinical decision support should occur primarily in real-time, enabling clinicians to intervene and prevent deteriorations in condition before they occur. At the same time, strong clinical documentation enables better reporting and financial management.
- Enables local interoperability. Care coordination depends on interoperability among all the parts of the local healthcare ecosystem. That includes various referring organizations, such as hospitals and physician offices, as well as laboratories, pharmacies and radiology providers. Shared information becomes a powerful tool in care quality.
- Vendor as a partner. Adopting EHR technology is a huge strategic decision for any organization because it serves as the operating system for the business and impacts long-term viability. As a result, organizations need a vendor that is responsive, listens, can partner with them for the long term and is vested in the LTPAC’s success.
While no one knows exactly what the future will bring for LTPAC organizations, we do know that a good technology foundation can better manage information, enhance efficiency and improve care quality. We also know that there is no future scenario where those three factors will not be essential. Onboarding a robust EHR platform will engender corporate agility and help LTPAC organizations navigate the future, whatever it brings.