Dave Crist is senior vice president for Brother Mobile Solutions, Inc.
Recently, the president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) called on all American’s to commemorate National Home Care & Hospice Month. He also stated that in the coming years, home health care is poised to play a central role in the delivery of healthcare throughout the country. Yet, the growing home health market is not without challenges. Solutions that blend innovation and mobility at the point of care can help pave the way for strong patient-caregiver interactions and support positive outcomes.
Home Health Poses Challenges: Mobile Solutions Can Improve Care Delivery
An aging population and tough new compliance and regulatory issues are posing challenges for the home healthcare segment. The unique and specific needs of the home healthcare market must play a paramount role in organizations seeking to develop mobile solutions to address these issues. Home caregivers urgently need “smart” solutions that address not only patient privacy, but also, wireless connectivity, mobile printing, security and remote data access.
There are a number of issues and trends impacting the healthcare industry that solution providers and caregivers need to keep top-of-mind:
- Reimbursements/Re-admissions – Medicare reimbursement reductions and new penalties are being imposed on hospitals with high avoidable re-admissions. This increases the pressure on home health agencies to leverage technology to aid patients in following aftercare instructions, adhering to medication plans and accessing their medical information – all to better prevent costly re-admissions from occurring.
- Aging Population –The “Baby Boomer” segment of the population has begun reaching retirement age, making seniors the largest group in the country. As seniors continue to live longer, and the popularity of “aging at home” continues to rise, the home health market will be tasked to streamline care and keep up with a growing patient base that requires a greater level of care over a longer period of time.
- Shortage of Care Providers – A nursing shortage continues to impact hospitals, where the lack of qualified nurses may contribute to patients being discharged earlier, putting the burden of recovery on care received once the patient has returned home. The good news, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is that there will be nearly 712,000 new nursing positions by 2020 – and the Bureau predicts this will be mostly in outpatient settings, home healthcare and nursing homes.
Mobile Can Help Deliver In-hospital Level Services at the Point of Care
Mobile technology, and the ability to fulfill the same data demands in-home as in-hospital, will play a role in helping home health agencies meet today’s challenges in serving patients at home.
In addition to trends, healthcare organizations are tasked with meeting a number of compliance mandates and requirements, including meaningful use, ICD-10, CMS guidelines and EHR adoption.
Mobility and Meaningful Use
One of the requirements of meaningful use Stage 2 is that patients must be provided the ability to view online, download and transmit their health information within 36 hours after discharge from the hospital. Mobile technology will play a big role toward meeting this requirement during the at-home care process.
The challenge for home healthcare organizations will also be how to plan ahead and build upon the lessons learned from Stage 2 as they move on to Stage 3. Patient engagement, health information exchange (HIE) and clinical decision support — all part of Stage 2 – are expected to be expanded in Stage 3, and technology will play a pivotal role for home healthcare compliance. However, small organizations without CIOs, CTOs or dedicated IT directors may feel challenged in the IT decision-making process.
Coupled with meaningful use requirements, all healthcare entities, including home health agencies, must convert from ICD-9 to ICD-10 coding by October 1, 2014. These new requirements make the right mobile technology imperative to correctly enter codes for home health solutions.
Integration a Must for Mobile in Home HealthHome health providers will soon be held to the same standards for data handling and patient service as other healthcare entities. As such, mobile technology must integrate with a home healthcare worker’s workflow and promote access to treatment records, educational materials and billing information, all without sacrificing treatment quality or data security. Mobile technologies that help achieve these goals include barcode scanners, which help verify that the right medication and dose is given to the right patient. Also integral are tablets, notebooks and smartphones, which allow for access to EHR and patient records in-home.
And finally, mobile printers are proving to be an invaluable asset for -printing -point-of-care treatment plans, teaching guides, consent forms, updated medication plans and more anytime from anywhere. And this seems low tech, but mobile printing facilitates signature capture on crucial forms (like refusal of service) in such a simple, cost effective way that the value of a mobile printer cannot be underestimated. All these technologies help home health agencies address industry standards while providing the best mobile care for patients.
Dave Crist is senior vice president for Brother Mobile Solutions, Inc., responsible for leading the development and implementation of a wide range of growth initiatives including new products, markets, channels, strategic alliances and acquisitions.