It used to be that interventions were the cornerstone of acute care. A patient would arrive at a hospital with a medical problem and the healthcare providers in that location – nurses, doctors and ancillary staff – would respond to the patient’s needs and provide treatment. After the individual received care, they would be sent home or to a post-acute facility, to further recover. For all intents and purposes, the acute providers’ work was done, and they would turn their focus to the next patient.
Of course, it is clear that a patient’s ultimate outcome doesn’t hinge just on what happens during their hospital stay. In fact, it is often determined by a number of social factors that stretch far beyond the hospital’s walls: the type of support system someone has at home, the neighborhood where they live, the ability to purchase and prepare healthy food options, access to adequate transportation to pick up medications or to keep follow-up appointments – the list goes on. Inattention to such social determinants of health can lead to negative consequences, including poor clinical outcomes and preventable readmissions. Not only do these important determinants create challenges for the patient and family once they leave the hospital setting, but they also stand to impact hospitals financially – particularly now that acute organizations are being penalized for unnecessary readmissions.
As the industry shifts toward delivering greater value – higher quality at a lower cost – it is becoming clear that a proactive approach that mitigates the likelihood of rehospitalization is more effective in keeping costs down and sustaining positive health outcomes. This is especially true for high-risk patients, such as those suffering from multiple co-morbidities and/or have limited family support. Instead of merely discharging these patients and moving on to the next ones, a hospital is better off keeping tabs on the individuals after they leave the hospital and employing care coordination software is one way to make this happen.
There are a lot of care coordination solutions out there today. I'd like to share five things to consider when evaluating the best solutions for your hospital or health system.
1. Software As A Service (SaaS) Vs. One-Time Purchase
The first distinction to make is what kind of investment makes the most sense for your hospital facility or system.
Numerous companies have moved to the software-as-a-service model for their technology, as it provides a number of benefits for the consumer. Ongoing support is guaranteed, as the subscription model ensures that updates will be continually rolled out. This alleviates worries about versioning and systems becoming outdated. It also makes it easier for software providers to interact with users and respond accordingly.
The competing model is that of the one-time investment. Often, this takes the form of an initial software purchase of a given number of licenses. For instance, an organization of 10-50 people may be able to purchase 20 licenses to be distributed among employees who require the software, while a larger organization may opt for an enterprise solution with hundreds of licenses that can be distributed.
Determining the right investment for your organization can be a delicate balancing act, but with many software providers moving to the SaaS model, your options may be increasingly limited if you choose to go the one-time licensing route.
2. EHR Compatibility
It’s critical that any care coordination software be compatible with multiple EHRs. Without a standard system in place across all portions of the healthcare experience, it’s likely the software you choose will have to play nice with a multitude of different EHR platforms – that includes the heavy hitters like Cerner and Epic, plus other lesser-known EHRs. Also, be on the lookout for software that can convert analog technology such as faxes to electronic communication in a way that improves productivity for everyone involved.
3. Automating Tasks
Software doesn’t do much good if it makes healthcare workers’ lives harder. Leaders should use software that creates actual efficiencies in workflows, giving staff back valuable time to spend in actual patient care.
One example of this is the post-acute placement process. Historically, discharge planning staff have not been able to accommodate specific requests such as physical or occupational therapy when matching patients to a post-acute facility. The traditional manual processes are too time-consuming and laborious to support that level of detail.
However, by leveraging a care coordination solution that allows staff to enter all the patients’ requirements into the system and let the solution identify the best potential matches, a hospital can quickly and easily generate a list of possible organizations that could be a good fit.
4. Software On The Go
Mobile optimization is a particularly important consideration today as individuals who grew up with phones and tablets enter the healthcare field in droves. Desktop software that provides a crucial service for hospitals is important, but even more so is the ability to take those same tools on the go, through secure and intuitive mobile apps. Put yourselves in the shoes of the worker who is used to conducting the majority of their online routine with a phone rather than a computer. You’re going to get more productivity out of your people if they can carry out tasks on the move.
The ability to secure protected health information (PHI) must be of the utmost priority for hospitals when evaluating vendors. You might have the most robust software in the world, but if it possesses a cybersecurity vulnerability, the potential damage to your hospital is not worth the cost. If you’re going to be coordinating the care of patients once they exit your doors, you need to make sure every step of that process is ultra-secure and HIPAA-compliant, with no vulnerabilities that could leave your organization exposed.
Making The Commitment
Care coordination technology can play a vital role in making the shift from intervention to prevention. Organizations that leverage automated tools to facilitate post-acute placement, proactive information-sharing and interactive cross-continuum communication will set themselves up for success in realizing more cost-effective and high-quality care.
Originally posted on Forbes Technology Council (view original).