Strengthening Post-Acute Networks

Posted by Jill Reeves, MHA on 1/16/17 8:00 AM

A strong network of facilities ready to receive a patient and seamlessly continue his or her care is a key element in transitioning patients out of the hospital and into the post-acute setting. Although large health systems often have capable networks based on the amount of patients they feed into these facilities, small- to mid-sized hospitals can lack the leverage of larger organizations and may have much less robust networks as a result. Though patients are the ultimate decision makers regarding which facility they will transition to after hospital discharge, network limitations can mean the hospital has fewer options to share. If this leads to a patient making a less-than-ideal choice, it can potentially impact the individual’s health outcomes, as well as satisfaction. As such, hospitals and health systems need to strengthen their networks in order to provide favorable recommendations for the next care stage.

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Topics: Post-acute Care

Streamlining Workflow

Posted by Jill Reeves, MHA on 12/19/16 8:03 AM

 With the propagation of electronic health records (EHRs) and other technology-enabled solutions, healthcare organizations often use an array of systems to support their various clinical and administrative functions. Even when these disparate solutions are capable of “talking” with one another, they frequently have their own nuances and workflows, which can be cumbersome and inefficient to manage. In some cases, mistakes can ensue because staff members must toggle between different solutions and can easily get confused.

The good news is that organizations can mitigate this problem when using technology for care coordination. When these solutions are able to integrate with an organization’s EHR, they merge potentially disparate workflows into one, seamless interface. This eliminates the need to navigate between solutions and follow different workflows, making it less likely for care coordinators and other staff members to make mistakes during care transitions.

Using these integrated solutions, care coordinators can also work more quickly and efficiently, reducing the number of steps and amount of time they spend preparing the patient for discharge. For example, a typical 260-bed regional hospital with this kind of technology can reduce the referral and post-acute placement process from 34 steps down to just six, and from 21 hours per week down to just three. This can free up care coordinators to spend more time interacting directly with patients who have more complex needs, ensuring their transitions home or into the post-acute setting are as successful as possible.

Facilitating safe and effective care transitions can be a complex endeavor; however, by using care coordination technology that seamlessly integrates with existing EHR systems, organizations can streamline and smooth workflow, making the discharge process more efficient, accurate and reliable.

Learn more about how technology can increase patient handoff reliability in our white paper.

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Topics: Care Coordination Software

Three Strategies for Improving Care Coordination

Posted by Jill Reeves, MHA on 11/28/16 8:00 AM

As hospitals and health systems increasingly take responsibility for patient outcomes post discharge, they are realizing the need for better care coordination after patients leave the hospital. Although there are many ways to take care coordination to the next level, here are three actions that are especially critical.

Strengthen your network. Placing patients who require post-acute care with an appropriate facility is something every hospital must do; however, some accomplish this task more successfully than others. Transitions tend to go more smoothly when organizations have a vetted network of certified post-acute providers that they can recommend to patients. Using care coordination technology, hospitals with a robust network can quickly share information about a patient to multiple, qualified providers at the same time and hear back within minutes as to which facilities can accept the patient. This allows the hospital to present a current, pre-qualified list to the patient and family, enabling them make a more informed decision about the next care setting.

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Topics: Care Coordination, Care Coordination Software

The IMPACT Act: Legislating Care Coordination

Posted by Jill Reeves, MHA on 10/18/16 8:32 AM

There is no question that cross-continuum care coordination is a good thing—the more various healthcare entities work together to deliver appropriate and timely interventions, the better off patients will be. That said, care coordination has often been viewed as a nice to have rather than a critical mandate. However, that is changing as the federal government approves legislation that requires diverse healthcare organizations to cooperate.

One such mandate is the Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation (IMPACT) Act of 2014. While predominately aimed at the post-acute community and their preparations for risk-based care, the legislation’s overarching goal is to enhance collaboration among all members of the care team.

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Topics: Care Coordination, Healthcare Reform, Care Coordination Software

3 Things You Can Do Now to Up Your HIPAA Compliance Game

Posted by Randy Wobig on 9/26/16 2:37 PM

No doubt, your organization has some sort of playbook in place to comply with the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA), but with the field of privacy and security changing daily, new risks abound. Some are driving down midfield; some are lurking on the sidelines, for now.

With more than a decade of HIPAA and its Privacy and Security Rules practice under our belts, you’d think that healthcare organizations would have the compliance part down cold. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Much like that 250-pound defensive end, The Department of Health and Human Service’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is out there actively enforcing HIPAA every week. In 2014, the OCR tackled 14,293 enforcement resolutions and took corrective action on 3,472. That equates to more than nine every day of the year, proving that there is no off-season when it comes to HIPAA!

Whether you look at these risks as threats or opportunities, there are three things you can do now to enhance your existing HIPAA compliance efforts.

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Topics: HIPAA

Three Ways Healthcare Can Get Its Interoperability Act Together

Posted by Patrick Yee on 8/3/16 8:30 AM

What were you doing in 2006?

That’s when the American Health Information Management Association published an article on interoperability and noted that “Healthcare’s hottest topic finally has two things it has badly needed: plain language and a sense of urgency.”

Ten years later and surely millions of pages of plain talk later, it appears the author’s nod to urgency may have been a bit misplaced. Granted, healthcare interoperability is a complex topic. Just ask the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

HIMSS defined interoperability back in 2005 as “the ability of health information systems to work together within and across organizational boundaries in order to advance effective delivery of healthcare for individuals and communities.” That early definition has evolved into one that today includes an emphasis on systems being able to not only exchange information, but actually use the information once it has been exchanged.

Emphasizing usability of the information exchanged is an important distinction. I see it as right in line with the U.S. government’s shift away from focusing solely on how healthcare is delivered and toward what healthcare outcomes are achieved. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology obviously agrees, going so far as to state in the recently released roadmap that interoperability should occur “without special effort on the part of the user.”

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Topics: Healthcare IT, EHRs, Interoperability

Ushering in the Next Generation of Care Coordination

Posted by Kyle Salem, Ph.D. on 7/25/16 1:36 PM

The extent of a hospital’s reach is changing. As the industry shifts towards value-based care, hospitals and health systems must think beyond its walls and work to coordinate care across the continuum, so patients can smoothly transition to the next care setting—until they ultimately return to wellness.

Until now, care coordination has been an incredibly inefficient process. Although most hospitals are adept at managing care within their organizations, it becomes more difficult when looking past the hospital setting. The problem is hospitals don’t have consistent and reliable methods for communicating with post-acute facilities and monitoring patient care. This is especially troubling because hospitals are being asked to take on more financial responsibility for patient outcomes after patients are discharged. Programs like the Comprehensive Joint Replacement (CJR) initiative from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) now require hospitals to coordinate care, signaling CMS is comfortable making these organizations the center of gravity for patient outcomes.

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Topics: Care Coordination, Care Transitions

Elevating Communication During Care Transitions

Posted by Mary Kay Thalken, RN, MBA on 6/20/16 3:42 PM

I'd like to share an article by Dr. Mark Kestner at Community Regional Medical Center, an Ensocare hospital client.


June 20, 2016 - Health System Management

The Effects of Consistent, Reliable Care Transitions on Clinical Care and Financial Outcomes

Care transitions—especially those that involve moving a patient from the acute to the post-acute setting—are often fraught with poor communication and a lack of cross-continuum information-sharing, resulting in care lapses that can lead to medical errors, unnecessary hospital readmissions and other negative clinical and financial consequences. However, forward-thinking organizations are realizing the importance of improving these transitional periods in order to reduce risk, boost care quality and sustain positive patient outcomes and satisfaction, even after a patient leaves the hospital. 

Community Regional Medical Center (CRMC)—a locally owned, not-for-profit, public-benefit health system based in Fresno, Calif.—is one of these forward-thinking organizations that has committed to enhancing its care transitions. With four hospitals as well as several long-term and outpatient facilities, the organization is the region’s largest healthcare provider. It is home to the only Level 1 Trauma Center and comprehensive burn center between Los Angeles and Sacramento, and it is licensed for 900 beds, regularly seeing 95 to 100 percent occupancy. The center is constantly moving patients to other care settings, and because of its size and prominent role in the community, it recognizes how making care transitions more consistent and reliable could have far-reaching effects in terms of both clinical care and financial outcomes. 

Encouraging Standardization

One of the reasons why care transitions have been so risky is that communication during these times has historically been uneven and unpredictable. To address this issue, CRMC aimed to standardize its processes for discharge communication as much as possible.

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Topics: Care Coordination, Care Transitions

Realizing Optimal Outcomes in Care Transitions

Posted by Wayne Sensor on 6/14/16 3:24 PM

June 13, 2016 - Health System Management

Strategies that Aim to Facilitate Communication and Reliability
Moving between care settings can be a risky proposition for patients. When transitions are poor, patients may experience delays in treatment, a lapse in care continuity and the omission of vital therapies. Moreover, two-thirds of medical errors occur during care transitions—at admission, transfer or discharge and these breakdowns can have serious ramifications. On one side of the spectrum, a patient could have a slower recovery or a greater chance of acute care readmission; while on the other side, the individual may fail to return to expected functionality, resulting in long-term disability or even death.

Getting a Handle on the Problem
Despite the impact of sub-par care transitions, organizations continue to struggle to effectively move patients from one setting to another. For many, there is a lack of consistent processes, frequent delays and insufficient communication. To improve the efficiency and safety of these critical time periods, organizations should consider these strategies that aim to facilitate communication and enhance overall reliability.

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Topics: Care Coordination, Healthcare Technology Solutions

Using Technology-enabled Care Coordination to Boost Quality Outcomes

Posted by Kyle Salem, Ph.D. on 6/6/16 10:30 AM

June 6, 2016 - Becker's Hospital Review

"Improve quality, optimize efficiency and reduce costs" is a mantra that healthcare organizations all over the country repeat as they aim to navigate new payment models on leaner budgets. To turn these goals into reality, forward-thinking hospitals and health systems are bolstering efforts to communicate with post-acute facilities, physician practices and other care locations.

These organizations realize that without strong care coordination between settings, there is greater risk for errors and unfavorable outcomes, in addition to potential increases in length of stay (LOS) or unnecessary readmissions. In the same vein, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has introduced new reimbursement models, such as the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) model, where effective communication and care coordination between hospitals and other settings aren't just a good idea, they're required to reduce risks and promote quality outcomes.

A key opportunity for elevating cross-continuum communication is the hospital discharge and post-acute placement process. Historically, the process of transitioning patients from one care setting to another has proven fragmented and inadequate. As a means to achieve better outcomes and to mitigate financial risk, organizations are turning to technology to optimize workflows and ultimately improve care quality and satisfaction.

There are many ways that technology can be used to improve post-acute activities and nearly all bring laborious processes, clerical inefficiencies and potential gaps into which care can fall short to the forefront.

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Topics: Healthcare IT, Healthcare Technology Solutions