Time makes all the difference for patients at end of life. But barriers such as limited connectivity and partial insight into important data can prevent patients and their families from receiving the emotional, psychosocial and spiritual support they need, when they need it. This is especially true for hospice patients.
A report from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) found that nearly 41% of Medicare patients were admitted to hospice within the last 14 days of their life. Half of those patients were in their last seven days of life. As a result, patients and their families often have only a few weeks—and in some cases, days—to deal with the complexities of dying. This means patients and families lose precious time to arrange and set up equipment and services needed to manage medical needs and pain—all while trying to find the time to say goodbye.
The good news is that care providers can leverage innovative technology to help their patients receive intelligent, quality care and help families spend more valuable time with their loved ones. Post-acute care providers have the power to transform the way we approach end-of-life healthcare through new strides in technology—particularly, interoperability and predictive analytics. Backed by the right technology, providers can place a patient in the right care setting at the right time to better meet the patient’s needs.
Historically, post-acute care has been highly fragmented, with very little communication between providers in different care settings. This lack of interoperability is especially notable during care transitions, which are regarded as the some of the most vulnerable points in a patient’s healthcare journey. New care providers often lack full visibility into previous care decisions, resulting in potential gaps in care, medical errors and decreased patient satisfaction.
For example, if a hospice provider does not have access to (or only has partial access to) a patient’s historical health data, the hospice provider can only deliver care based on that limited data set, which may not best illustrate that patient’s full condition. When providers lack the full picture of a patient’s past care, they’re missing an opportunity to deliver better outcomes.
But with the right technology, we can close gaps, reduce errors, and improve quality of care and life. For example, if a decision is made to discharge from home health and admit to hospice care, WellSky I/O technology supports a seamless transition of health information between settings. This allows the patient and their family to confidently transition, knowing that patient’s medical information is continued and risks of gaps in care are diminished. The new care providers have full visibility into previous care decisions and can work toward supporting the patient in the next phase of their care journey.
The future of connected and coordinated care requires greater access to health information and improved methods of data exchange. With recent advances in technology—namely the advancement of Representational State Transfer (REST)-based application programming interfaces and the FHIR® data standard—technology vendors are better positioned to make meaningful strides in delivering truly interoperable systems to their users.
Beyond technology alone, organizations such as CommonWell are also bringing together healthcare technology companies and empowering data sharing that benefits care providers, patients, and their families. CommonWell is a nonprofit trade organization that provides a nationwide, vendor-neutral platform for interoperability that breaks down the technological and process barriers to effective health data exchange. By joining CommonWell’s expansive membership, healthcare technology leaders are able to collaborate with other leaders, all focused on better connecting care across the continuum.
The potential for interoperability spans the entire care continuum and realizing connectivity in post-acute care can help us discover new ways to connect to all kinds of care providers, including acute and community care providers.
Big data has long been a buzzword across industries, and healthcare is no exception. While having access to data is important for delivering great patient care, mountains and mountains of data can be difficult for providers to sift through—especially when time is of the essence in hospice care. Post-acute care providers need technology that cuts through the clutter to deliver meaningful data that helps ensure measurably better outcomes. Predictive analytics enhance what data can do for patients—turning information into insights that can improve care.
With this in mind, we have developed solutions for predictive analytics that allow home health agencies to better understand when a patient might be ready to transition into hospice care. For hospice, predictive analytics solutions track key indicators of when patients may need increased care and when they are likely to be within their last seven days of life. With these insights on their side, post-acute care providers have the information they need to deliver the right care at the right time.
Predictive analytics allow providers to tackle the challenge of early identification of hospice suitability. By identifying home health patients who meet the criteria for hospice care, we are facilitating the conversation between providers, patients and families sooner. This allows for an open discussion about the patient’s priorities and goals and an increased focus on the patient’s quality of life.
Interoperable technology with embedded predictive analytics indicates to home health providers when patients with chronic illnesses are better suited for hospice care. This prompts conversations between caregivers, patients and their families, allowing everyone to coordinate care that best aligns with the patient’s condition and needs, ultimately driving better care delivery and outcomes. A strong interoperability infrastructure powers these advanced analytics, tracking of social determinants of health, and longitudinal care coordination in an integrated, patient-centered ecosystem.
Patients and their families deserve smart, connected and compassionate hospice care. As healthcare technology providers, we meet that need through interoperability and predictive analytics. As an industry, we still haven’t realized true interoperability. It will take time, effort and innovation, but together, we can realize a better connected, better informed healthcare system for the providers, patients and families.
Predictive analytics paired with interoperability capabilities open the door to a more coordinated and connected care system that supports what really matters—quality care and dignity for people at the end of life.
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