A stay in the hospital just isn’t like it used to be.
Today’s hospitals are becoming more wired. More of them have computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems, electronic health records (EHR), and massive databases that grind through staggering amounts of information to improve the care and the outcomes patients experience.
But the majority of this “wired” action still seems confined inside hospital walls. That’s bad news for the 35.1 million people who were discharged last year from inpatient hospital settings. Millions of them still needed complex care and were overwhelmed at the prospect of having to handle everything from filling prescriptions to changing wound dressings to finding a post-acute care facility.
Today’s most wired hospitals are starting to connect with patients because the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid require it. That’s a good thing. Now they need to take optimization a step further and do it because it’s good for patients and their families. According to the 2014 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, care coordination is one of six priorities that feeds into quality health care. But the same report notes that “there are few measures to assess trends in care coordination.” So we know it’s a priority. We know it matters. And we still have work to do. As a health-care professional, there are ways you can help remove the barriers to the optimized patient care experience.
First, broaden your view. Health-care administrators and caregivers should focus more closely on the process of discharging patients from inpatient settings and what happens to them after they leave their care. We know that care coordination improves as providers enhance their processes and adopt health information technologies. Achieving excellence in care coordination will pay off; potentially preventable 30-day hospital readmissions cost Medicare about $12 billion annually.*
Second, make time for measurement. Data can make a difference, and it all starts with measurement. But we all know it’s one thing to be able to measure and another entirely to know what makes sense to measure. Few, if any, health-care organizations can solve the data dilemma by themselves. Look for partners who can plug in with automated solutions that not only help on the care coordination front today, but also help you uncover the data points you need to track to ensure future improvement. (Hint: it’s more than length of stay.)
Third, bring it together. The elephant in the room is integration. Bringing together the most important pieces from EHR systems, clinical decision support (CDS) systems, CPOE systems and a host of other individual systems with acronyms of their own is a mind-boggling challenge. And all too often, HIPAA is used as a reason that these systems should not be integrated, when in fact HIPAA is simply a patient bill of rights that should be used to guide how we integrate these systems. Don’t give up. Instead, remember that we can use measurements and standards created by human beings to tackle the technology behemoth. As the American Hospital Association recently said: “We have so much interesting technology, let’s allow providers to figure out what the best uses are for providing care.”**
And that’s where I think the real solution really lies: at the intersection between the most powerful technology systems in the world and the people who passionately believe we can make health care better.
*”Health Policy Brief: Care Transitions,” Health Affairs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Sept. 13, 2012.
**Excerpted from “HealthCare’s Most WiredTM 2015,” Hospitals and Health Networks, July 2015.