As the healthcare landscape evolves, today’s community health providers are in a unique position to design new care delivery initiatives that can support healthier individuals, families, and communities, powered by adopting innovative technology tools. According to a study on factors influencing healthcare service quality, published in the International Journal of Health Policy and Management, healthcare outcomes are enhanced when patients and healthcare providers collaborate in a supportive environment.
Care coordination is a vital component in improving the delivery of patient-centered healthcare and social services. This is especially true for high-risk populations, such as those going through transitions of care and those who belong to certain populations. Transitions of care include the time period around hospital discharge or transfer to a new healthcare setting, such as a long-term care facility or home health. These transitions leave at-risk patients vulnerable to loss of continuity of healthcare.
Populations requiring additional considerations include homeless, children in foster care and patients who over-utilize the emergency department for non-emergencies, to name a few. The goal of care coordination for these populations is to anticipate needs, collaborate with all providers of services, and to coordinate the wide array of health, social and supportive services for each group. The main goal is to improve the quality of care while avoiding costly hospital admissions and re-admissions.
To help optimize critical coordination efforts, technology solutions can help the entire care team of providers in various locations collaborate across the care continuum, raising awareness of an individual’s physical, behavioral, and social factors and driving whole-person care. Organizations like Community Health Partnership (CHP) – a Colorado Springs-based collaborative of local health providers – aim to align many care management activities throughout the community.
Here are some strategies healthcare providers and organizations should consider when designing innovative care delivery initiatives:
Guest post by Andy Ridinger, director of client experience, MyHealthDirect.
Despite much of the uncertainty facing the future of the health care industry, the shift to value-based care is not going to go away. Regardless of what new laws may decide, organizations need care coordination tools now more than ever to be successful. Doctors and hospital officials continue to cite care coordination as a key advantage in accountable care models, which seek to more tightly integrate providers and maintain joint financial incentives that deliver better-quality and lower-cost services.
In the United States, more than a third of patients are referred to a specialist each year, and specialist visits constitute more than half of outpatient visits. Referrals are the crucial link between primary and specialty care. Yet despite this frequency, the referral process itself has been a great frustration for many years. The transformation to value-based healthcare is well underway with a shift away from the quantity of patients to the achievement of better health outcomes.
The current state of the specialty-referral process in the U.S. provides substantial opportunities for improvement, as there are breakdowns and inefficiencies throughout. These are inevitable when the process hinges on a patient following through on a slip of paper. It is no wonder that of the one third of patients that receive referrals, 20 percent never follow through to schedule a visit. Of the referrals that are completed, a host of other challenges often result. Sometimes it is just a disconnect of information between the two providers but can be an incorrect provider altogether. The final outcome is poor for everyone involved; patient, referrer, and target provider alike.
To improve the referral process and care coordination, here are four strategies to facilitate greater convenience in care coordination initiatives:
Make it digital
Just by enabling online booking, referral lead times (time between a PCP and specialist office visit) decrease by up to 36 percent, and show rates improve by 20 percent. Additionally, on the spot booking to a specialist reduces patient leakage for health systems. It can guarantee that care is rendered by the best-suited physicians within your preferred network.
Make it best-fit
The most effective appointment maximizes show rates and minimizes lead times. A provider must select the preferred physician with the earliest availability at a time the patient is likely to show up. Optimized scheduling can yield up to a five times increase in referral completion rates.
Make it measurable
The best way to improve referral completion rates and reduce lead times is to capture the relevant data points in a timely manner so that you can track changes over time. Presenting the data in an easily consumable and actionable format is equally critical.
Connect the docs
To know if patients complete visits, it is critical that all parties share the right information and facilitate two-way communication in real time. A primary care physician making a referral is far better equipped to manage a patient’s health if she receives show status and notes back from the specialist visit as soon as that information is entered into the specialist’s electronic health record.
Guest post by Abhinav Shashank, CEO and co-founder, Innovaccer.
The US healthcare is getting costlier every day, and it is without a doubt true that most of the US citizens live in fear that they won’t get access to the care when the illness strikes. The sad truth is that every year more than 100,000 deaths occur because of medical errors. All this when we see horrifying figures even after adjusting the America’s higher per capita GDP; US spends roughly $500 billion more than other developed countries.
The Problems with Coordination
13 years ago, way back in 2003, the Institute of Medicine had identified the most persistent problem in the healthcare industry, and it was coordination. The idea behind implementing EHRs was to create digital data that is easy to share, but that did not happen. According to a study, 63 percent of primary care physicians and 35 percent specialist are not satisfied with the information they receive from other physicians within the adult referral system.
The above graph shows how poorly coordinated care has affected the adults. The US stands second when it comes to high-need patients. This is when US spends more than $10,000 on one person’s health.
According to a research article, the biggest challenges Primary Care Physicians and Hospitalists faced were:
Difficulty reaching out other clinicians
Lack of information feedback loops
Lack of general information like clarity on test results, history, and medications, etc.
Insufficient access to discharge information of patients
Working towards a solution
Besides these, a lot of problems arise when patients miss out on medications, follow-up visits or any other requirements. Thus, there is a need to create a process where neither do PCPs miss out on critical information nor does the patient stay unaware of the care plans. For this PCPs had identified the most successful care coordination components:
Better coordinated care for at-risk patients
Enhanced direct contact with patients through phone calls
Advanced use of EHRs for better health information exchange
Developing better interpersonal relationships
Health coaches connecting care
The most important aspect of healthcare is that when a care process is nearing its end, the patient should be in a better state. A patient-centric approach is must to make sure a patient gets the best treatment. Health Coaches ensure that the patients get what they need. They make sure that the
Patient doesn’t miss out on his medications
Patient attends follow-up visits,
Patient has no transportation barrier while visiting a hospital
Inform family/caregiver about the care plans and the patient
Track and make sure adherence of care plans
Review discharge instructions
The Three Pieces of Care Coordination
More often than not care coordinators miss out on the essential information about the patients. In worst cases, they have no discharge information of patients creating gaps in care and indirectly increases the cost of care. Ideally, the three pieces of care coordination together can bring dramatic improvements in patient-centric care. The three pieces are:
Guest post by Mark Ott, vice president of product, RoundingWell.
As 2016 unfolds, the move from fee-for-service to value-based care is entering a more advanced stage. As the process evolves, priorities for healthcare providers of resources, teams and tools becomes more convoluted. To keep on track, both for healthcare organizations and CMS changes, providers should keep in mind the following:
The care management/coordination record rises in importance, especially as team-based care models expand
Some call it a care management medical record and others call it a care coordination record. Regardless of the term, the concept is essentially the same. EHRs are basically encounter management systems, but as care expands beyond the in-person encounter, capturing and tracking what happens between patient visits will be of utmost importance. In addition, enabling care teams to stay on the same page about a patient’s care plan, track action steps, and reduce the friction of working together will be crucial to succeeding in a value-based world. Expect to see the Care Management Record concept start catching fire in 2016.
Demand will increase for consumer-grade user experiences in healthcare enterprise software
For so long, clinicians on the frontlines of care delivery have had to struggle with software that’s hard to use, difficult and downright frustrating. The biggest culprit for poor user experiences in healthcare software has to do with the enterprise purchasing process. Vendors build for buyers, like the C-suite, who aren’t also the end users. If the end user and the buyer were the same, you’d see healthcare software vendors value user experience like what we see in other B2B industries, not to mention B2C industries. Regardless, in 2016 we will see more buyers value products with consumer-grade user experiences. Much of this has to do with end users’ reluctance and sometimes outright resistance to adopting technology in their worklife. Clinicians often get a bad wrap for being technology averse. But in reality, it’s not that they’re averse to technology; it’s that they’re averse to bad technology.
Integrating wearables and their data into care delivery processes will remain a niche activity
The enthusiasm around wearables, trackers and remote monitoring is exciting and there is enormous potential for device data to impact the delivery of care in ways that benefit both patient and provider. But the technology hasn’t caught up with the promise of what they can be, and that won’t change in 2016. Not only is the technology not yet able to deliver, but the incentives and processes to support wide-scale deployment are not in place yet. Though all signs point to wearables becoming an integral part of delivery of care, this won’t happen next year.
Guest post by Drew Ivan, director of business technology, Orion Health.
With such an enormous cross-section of the healthcare industry in attendance, the HIMSS Conference and Exhibition represents a comprehensive snapshot of the state of the healthcare industry and a perfect trendspotting opportunity. Here’s a preview of what I expect will be this year’s conference highlights.
Care coordination and population health and process improvement, workflow and change management are tied for the most popular category, with 29 educational sessions focused on each.
Representing 22 percent of the total number of sessions, this is clearly a focus area for the year’s conference, and it’s easy to see why. Changes in healthcare payment models are now well underway, and they are impacting payer and provider operations where healthcare is delivered, managed and documented.
Providers and payers alike are seeking information about how best to operationalize business processes and provide high quality care under new payment models, but it may be even more interesting to visit the Exhibition Hall to see what innovations vendors are bringing to the market to meet these needs.
Another topic related to changes in healthcare delivery is clinical informatics and clinician engagement, which is all about how new technologies, such as big data and precision medicine, can impact care decisions. The ability to make data-driven clinical decisions is one of the many dividends of widely adopted electronic health records. This is likely to be an important area for many years to come.
With 100 million medical records hacked last year, privacy and security is a hot topic at this year’s conference. The number of educational sessions in this category nearly doubled from 13 last year to 25 this year.
While preventing unauthorized access to records is the top priority, security will be a simpler problem to solve than privacy. As more sources of clinical data go from paper to electronic systems and more types of users have legitimate access to patient data, the problem of providing appropriate, fine-grained access in accordance with patient preferences, clinical settings and laws that differ across jurisdictions becomes very difficult to untangle.
Privacy and security concerns will need to be addressed with a combination of open standards and vendor products that implement them. Technologies from other industries, like banking, are likely to start making their way into healthcare.
This year, health information exchange (HIE) and interoperability educational sessions are combined into a single category, reflecting the fact that interoperability within a single institution is, at this point, more or less a solved problem. The next frontier is to enable interoperability across institutions to support improved transitions of care.
HIEs have a role to play when it comes to moving data between organizations; however, many HIEs are struggling or disappearing because of sustainability challenges. This year’s conference will provide an opportunity to learn best practices from the most successful HIEs. It will also be interesting to see what strategies HIE vendors will pursue as their customer base consolidates. In the Orion Health booth alone, we will have executives from HIEs talking about these same issues.
Guest post by Scott Zimmerman, president, TeleVox.
If you caught Maria Bartiromo’sinterview with ex-Apple CEO John Sculley in late December, you would have heard him say this to the Fox Business Network’s Global Markets Editor:
“Telehealth is going to be a booming industry.”
Why? Sculley pointed to consumers’ taking on more responsibility for their own healthcare, the result of a new awakening to its high costs. He sees this as a derivative effect of Obamacare, as patients confront greater out-of-pocket payments in the face of higher deductibles.
Sculley went on to compare his expectations for the success that he expects telehealth to experience to the success that ATMs and online banking have seen in the last 20 years: “People said, ‘I wonder if it will be successful. We all know it was. The same thing is going to happen in telehealth.”
The renowned tech titan is very much onto something here. Consumers – especially those with chronic conditions who grapple with the challenges of adhering to prescribed treatment plans – will want more efficient and lower-cost ways to more regularly engage with their healthcare providers as part of a continuous-care model. But there’s so much more that is influencing the move by medical professionals to complement in-office visits with remote patient engagement strategies and communications solutions.
One important reason is that healthcare providers and institutions have financial incentives for more aggressively managing patient cases. In the age of accountable care, hospitals want physicians who have ties to their healthcare systems to boost patient communications for care coordination, to help them steer clear of penalties for avoidable readmissions. The focus on rewarding quality of care delivered, rather than quantity of services provided, also increases the importance of doctors’ keeping closer tabs on how their patients are doing in between office visits.
It’s always better that physicians know as soon as possible if their patients are having problems complying with care instructions or experiencing other complications, but especially so under these new scenarios. By the time the next office visit rolls around, things may have worsened to a considerable extent, potentially leading to more tests, additional medications, or even the need for hospitalization – all of which can take its toll on meeting accountable care standards.
Progress Is Underway
Of course, it’s simply not possible for healthcare professionals to regularly call each patient who is suffering from a serious condition to see how he or she is doing between appointments.
Various forms of payment reform are in play throughout US healthcare today, and with good reason as we search for the right combination of incentives, alignment and engagement that produce systemically better health outcomes at lower overall cost.
As an example, providers are paying much more attention to the small percentage of patients with the highest costs, including patients with chronic conditions. As a result, they are identifying these patients, establishing care plans and engaging care coordinators and patients to improve outcomes. Less attention, however, is being focused on the powerful capability to better connect, communicate and coordinate care among the multiple providers that care for a patient. This caliber of care coordination has the potential to improve outcomes across the entire patient population and is rooted in results that suggest a coordinated network of providers, each capable of high quality and cost effective care, with appropriate information about the patient available to them, can deliver improved outcomes across large patient populations.
Patient populations may be systemically managed under various forms of accountable care, commercial shared savings, Medicare Advantage and full risk – or managed by episodes of care, bundled payments, etc. The shift from fee-for-service to “fee-for-value” incentivizes preventive care, best practice care, and high-value delivery of care and it puts a premium on the ability to coordinate care.
Therein lies a very significant challenge: The collective group of providers that interact with a large patient population are invariably part of different organizations, with different technology platforms or no platform at all and are dependent upon fax machines, phones, and paper to exchange documents and communicate. The provider groups also possess differing incentives: the “at-risk” provider attempts to influence improved health and financial outcomes while other providers may still be receiving fee-for-service payments.
Reconciling these challenges and harnessing the power of care coordination is now possible via referral coordination. One of the most powerful mechanisms for coordinating care are the hundreds of thousands of patient referrals made every day between various providers, with Primary Care Providers (PCP) being the largest initiator of consulting and diagnostic referrals on behalf of their patients. Providers need to communicate with each other when they are treating the same patient, and these patient transitions between providers represent a significant opportunity to realize high value care.
The referral itself is equivalent to a PCP or patient making a decision on which provider to “hire” to provide the needed care. This referral decision and the coordination of the referral are critical to the delivery of better health at lower cost, but improving the overall referral process requires key elements to be implemented consistently:
Guest post by Michael Simpson is the CEO of Caradigm.
It’s been five years since the HITECH Act was enacted as part of ARRA, and while there’s still a lot of debate about the technical details, rules and timelines involved with electronic health record (EHR) adoption and meaningful use, it’s clear that the focus on EHRs – and incenting hospitals and professionals to use EHRs in a meaningful way – represents a critical, foundational step in transforming health care in this country.
After all, meaningful use targets the right goals – goals that every hospital, health system and healthcare professional supports, including improved quality, safety and efficiency of care; reduced disparities; more engaged patients and families as core members of the care team; improved care coordination and population health; and more secure patient health information.
More important, the stages of meaningful use drive a set of progressively more advanced capabilities that are fundamental to achieving those goals. Digitizing data was the first critical step, and the good news is that according to a recent HHS press release, about 60 percent of all hospitals have adopted an advanced EHR, leaving the paper world behind. The next steps are sharing that data – securely – among providers and patients, reporting on quality to understand and improve it, using clinical decision support at the point of care, and many other capabilities critical to transforming care and outcomes. If providers and professionals meet meaningful use requirements, we should see more transparency, greater efficiency, reduced waste and more healthy people in our communities over time.
Stage 2 Challenges
It’s a long and challenging journey, and while hospitals and health systems are making good progress against Stage 1 requirements, very few are prepared for Stage 2. In fact, according to survey data from the American Hospital Association, fewer than 6 percent of hospitals have met the criteria for Stage 2, and only 10 percent have met the requirement for patients to be able to view, download and transmit their health information online.
Why are providers getting stuck as they try to move to Stage 2? Because as the requirements become more demanding – e.g., using clinical decision support, generating patient lists, protecting patient health information, engaging patients – these organizations need a new set of technology capabilities to meet those requirements. These capabilities leverage and extend the functionality and benefits of the EHR.
Moreover, to reach the ultimate goals targeted by Meaningful Use — improved quality, efficiency, outcomes and population health — providers will need to aim even higher than meeting the requirements of meaningful use stages, strategically using data from EHRs and myriad other systems across the care continuum to enable a new level of capabilities.