Andrew Olowu, chief technology officer of Axxess Technology, discusses home health and how technology is impacting this market segment of the care spectrum, from delivery of care to how caregivers benefit from its use.
Where does home healthcare fit into the big picture?
Home healthcare plays an increasingly vital role in the delivery of quality healthcare in America today. It is widely accepted that patient outcomes are better when care is delivered in the comfort the home, where a patient feels most comfortable. Because the cost associated with home healthcare is much lower than other tradition healthcare options (such as the hospital), home healthcare is also very beneficial from a financial standpoint. Lastly, as the baby boomer generation ages, it will create increasing demands for all categories of healthcare, including home healthcare services.
How is technology affecting the delivery of home healthcare services?
The practice of using paper by home health agencies for maintaining patient records, documenting clinical notes, managing physician orders and scheduling patient visits is still very common today, but must be transitioned to electronic records by 2014.
Advanced electronic health record systems used in home health agencies benefit patients and healthcare providers. A good electronic health record system can perform automatic audits of clinician documentation, check for adverse drug and allergy interactions, warn about scheduling conflicts and deviations, verify access to patient records, and back up all electronic data on a periodic basis.
How are healthcare professionals (nurses, clinicians, treating physicians, etc.) benefiting from technology in home healthcare?
The advent of mobile devices allows nurses to document patient visits directly at the point of care, which decreases the time it takes to submit clinician documentation. Point-of-care systems also improve the nurses’ ability to communicate directly with the physician overseeing the patient’s care, which ensures accurate documentation and allows for ease of collaboration among a patient’s medical team.
Explain the effects of home healthcare on hospital readmission reductions. And where does technology come into play?
Home healthcare plays a significant role in reducing hospital readmissions by providing recently-discharged patients with education about their diagnosis/prognosis, medications and treatment plans. This hands-on approach to post-hospitalization reduces likelihood of patient readmission. Caregivers and family members can also be educated by home health clinicians to provide the adequate care for the patient. Technology facilitates better communication and care coordination among healthcare professionals. The use of technology in home healthcare also reduces the time clinicians spend on paperwork, allowing more time spent caring for the patient.
How do you see the future of home healthcare affecting the healthcare industry as a whole? Why?
With the availability of efficient and comprehensive technology in home healthcare, we can expect better patient outcomes, happier patients because they can recover at home and a reduction in the cost of healthcare delivery. We believe home healthcare will grow and become increasingly important to both patients and providers as an integral element of the larger healthcare industry.
What benefits do hospitals have when partnering with home health agencies?
Under the affordable care act, hospitals with excessive readmissions will see reductions in their Medicare payments. Hospitals partnering with home health agencies that have adopted technology to provide the best care for patients will favorably affect the number of re-admissions and protect their revenue.
Knowing the requirements that wait in 2014, how is progress in the home health industry?
Based on our anecdotal observation, the industry is moving steadily toward adopting electronic health records. Larger organizations generally have been among the first adopters, with many smaller agencies yet to make the transition.
Andrew Olowu is the chief technology officer of Axxess and serves on its board of directors. Olowu is responsible for the overall technology, architecture and innovation of the Axxess platform.