Skilled nursing operators are facing increased incentives to collaborate with providers across the care continuum, and electronic health record (EHR) software is often identified as a potential solution.
But such a strategy can only work if every provider in a given chain of care uses the same software, which can create barriers both for SNFs and for technology vendors looking to break into the industry.
One such vendor, the Boston-based PatientPing, took a page from a popular restaurant reservation service — and a calculated bet by giving away the technology to early adopters.
“It’s not easy to get everyone in a community on a common platform, but when you do that, it creates a disproportionate amount of value for everybody,” PatientPing co-founder and CEO Jay Desai told Skilled Nursing News.
“So, for instance, OpenTable: You have to get all of the restaurants on, and that drives the diners, so that starts somewhere,” he said.
For the five-year-old software company, the initial targets were hospitals, not hip local taco joints and cocktail bars. PatientPing first attempts to target the largest hospital providers in any given area, then build out from that “nucleus” by marketing to bundled payment conveners, state-level skilled nursing associations, health plans, and other players in the long-term care space.
“Even if we don’t have 100% connectivity for any given facility, some connectivity is better than no connectivity,” Desai said. “So the service just gets better as more people join.”
In order to grow the network, PatientPing has made a deliberate gamble by not charging new users until a certain amount of providers in the area have signed on for the technology. Additionally, the company doesn’t charge SNFs to use a version of the software that allows them to send out patient information and receive medical history information for incoming residents.
“Knowing if the patient that you just brought into your census is part of an ACO [accountable care organization] or a bundled payment program is really useful for the SNF when they’re marketing to their ACO counterparts — how well they’re doing on length-of-stay,” Desai said.
A paid version of the software allows SNFs to find out when discharged residents have been admitted to area hospitals or other nursing facilities, at a cost that can range from $500 to $2,000 per month.
One accountable care organization, Saint Francis HealthCare Partners in Hartford, Conn., reportedly reduced its rehospitalization rate by 30% with the software, according to the company and the ACO.
Rehospitalizations remain at the forefront of most SNF providers’ key operating metrics: Starting this coming fiscal year, which begins in October, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will start withholding 2% of SNFs’ overall Medicare funding, which providers can earn back by meeting readmission benchmarks.
Along with care collaboration software, providers and researchers have identified telemedicine, preferred nursing home networks, and certain specialized nurses as potential solutions for cutting hospital admissions after a SNF stay.
“The SNF is really that moment after the hospitalization where the patient is vulnerable and fragile, and they take the lion’s share of the responsibility for rehabilitating that patient,” Desai said. “I like to think that this is a really important moment for SNFs to demonstrate their value as ACOs and bundled payments and other alternative payment models become more prevalent.”
Written by Alex Spanko