By B.J. Boyle, vice president and general manager of post-acute insights, PointClickCare.
In my last post, I discussed how our healthcare system is approaching a critical time in which the looming “silver tsunami” will drive baby boomers into hospitals and post acute care facilities in record numbers. Similarly, we will see dramatically increased patient transfers between care facilities, as an aging population moves between hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and senior living facilities in unprecedented numbers. At the same time, a seamless and accurate patient data transfer process is critical, given our current and predicted future nursing shortage, and the time-consuming and error-ridden nature of manual data transfers.
In order to determine if our system is optimized to deliver what is needed, PointClickCare recently conducted a Patient Transition Study in partnership with Definitive Healthcare, which found that alarmingly, many facilities haven’t yet fully embraced all of the possibilities of integrated electronic health record (EHR) platforms and are, instead, still relying on manual-based processes to handle patient transfers.
Respondents to the survey, which included c-suite executives from acute and post-acute care facilities, explained their current data sharing policies, interoperability issues, as well as other care delivery and coordination concerns in this important blinded voice-of-customer quantitative study. The data shows that while EHRs are nearly ubiquitous in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, many healthcare professionals still struggle with — or have reservations about — sharing critical patient information with their care partners.
Instead of relying on secure, simple, HIPAA-certified technology to streamline patient transitions, providers have been utilizing manual processes like phone calls and faxes — systems that require a human touch and are prone to inefficiencies, mismatched details, and omissions.
The Over-Reliance on Manual Processes = Inefficiency
As patients move from acute-care facilities to LTPACs, the sharing of critical patient information and associated data safely and securely is extremely important for coordinating care. But despite best efforts and intentions, many providers still aren’t sharing all patient data and information.
The most startling findings from the survey dive into the number of acute care and LTPAC facilities that still use manual-only strategies to coordinate patient care. In fact, thirty-six percent of acute care providers use manual-only strategies to coordinate patient transitions with the LTPAC community, compared with only 7 percent of LTPACs with acute care providers. Although a majority (84 percent) of LTPACs use a mix of digital and manual strategies to manage processes, only 56 percent of acute care providers do.
One respondent to the survey, a CEO of an LTPAC facility, explained that their local hospital “uses faxes to accommodate HIPAA and [to] be confidential.” He (or she) found this particularly frustrating as it creates more work and slows down care delivery: “Almost everything we touch is obtuse. You have to search it out, figure it out, and confirm it by phone,” adding that the absence of standardized forms and data-entry fields makes faxes especially inefficient.