Nearly Half of Post-Acute Staffers Have Minimal Health IT Knowledge — or None at All

Post-acute providers continue to struggle with information technology and data-sharing — particularly around care coordination and value-based payment models — a new survey from Black Book Market Research reveals.

In fact, 49% of providers who were surveyed reported that their staffers had very low levels of health IT levels of understanding — or they had no knowledge at all.

And in an ever-changing world of new reimbursement models — from the Patient Driven Payment Model (PDPM) to accountable care organizations (ACOs) — lagging behind in terms of technology comprehension may not be the best option for staying in business.

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The analysis, released late last month, covered 1,640 long-term and post-acute care providers, including nursing homes, hospitals, short-term rehabilitation facilities, home health companies, medical equipment distributors, hospice providers, and sub-acute facilities.

“All health care organizations must find better ways to manage the patient transition into post-acute processes and keep hospital readmissions in check, and that may fall completely on hospital systems at risk in 2020,” Doug Brown, managing partner of Black Book Research said in a statement.

Brown called for an “expansion of technology capabilities” for multiple kinds of providers across the continuum.

The researchers set out to identify effective strategies to strengthen post-acute care, and also decrease costs, using IT programs. Public and private health information communications, health data, care coordination, and how staffers relate to patients via software were some of the categories measured in the study.

The data revealed several potentially concerning conclusions. For instance, only 14% of SNFs and long-term care centers reported daily use of electronic health records, while 91% of care managers indicated that hospitals send the most complex patients to skilled nursing facilities — despite not having any solid communication channels between the two sites.

For those reasons, 90% of skilled nursing and sub-acute operators said they wouldn’t benefit from any shifts to value-based care due to a lack of IT knowledge and preparedness.

In recent years, several third-party software companies have developed solutions aimed at bridging the gaps between care providers along the continuum — typically focused on reducing preventable hospitalizations and increasing various stakeholders’ visibility into resident status.

The Maryland-based Real Time Medical Systems, for instance, aims to catch patients’ health at the nursing home level before they escalate to requiring acute care, while various telehealth providers bring remote doctor visits to properties at off hours, or in rural areas where physician coverage is spotty.

That said, investing in these solutions isn’t worth much unless the frontline caregivers and building leaders understand the products and understand why they’re useful. Scott Rifkin, founder of Real Time, frequently promotes his company’s software by noting that it was initially developed for the chain of nursing homes that he previously owned.

“If you create work for nursing staff, it’s not going to work. They’re not going to be able to do it,” Rifkin told SNN in March, after Real Time completed a $10 million funding round. “We understood that workflow. We built it for our own facilities.”

Speaking alongside Rifkin at a presentation this past summer, Marquis Health Services chief operating officer Barry Munk agreed with that need for employee buy-in, noting that he’s willing to continue using a tech solution with an uncertain return on investment as long as his staff enjoy using it and see its value — but not the other way around.

“I must see utilization, with the team adopting it,” Munk said back in August. “Scott promises a reduction in readmission rates; I think Scott agrees that it will only work if the team is using it.”

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