IT’s Influence on Patient Care, Provider Accountability

November 27, 2019

Post-acute executives surveyed say EHRs and interoperability with acute care providers and physicians would radically improve their ability to thrive under value-based care.

Black Book Research surveyed 1,640 providers of long-term and post-acute care facilities to help stakeholders in the industry address the higher growth/demand for post-acute services in the challenging environment of lower fee-for-service reimbursements and impending valued-based payment models.

Survey results show that nearly 90% of skilled nursing and sub-acute facilities forecast no portion of their payments will shift to value-based care in 2020 due to lack of IT capabilities and preparation.

Black Book’s annual post-acute IT user survey determines if there are more efficient ways to improve post-acute patient care while keeping providers accountable for improving quality and reducing costs through effective use of healthcare information technology. Specifically, the survey reported on health information exchanges (public and private), quality reporting, health analytics, workflow and care coordination, and patient engagement software/systems.

Key findings include:

Electronic health record adoption

Inpatient post-acute providers, overall, responded that 21% have some technological capabilities of EHRs operational in Q4 2019, as compared to 15% in 2016. Corporate chains and large nonprofit systems report the highest adoption rates among network post-acute care facilities nearing 40% as compared to 27% in 2016. The slow adoption rate and fragmented health IT environments are attributed to the different levels of technology investment and conflicting cultural priorities that prevent all providers from working together in a data-driven harmony. The study reveals 84% of post-acute administrators report having no budgeted funds for technology acquisitions or improvements in 2019.

Related: How Embedded Care Managers Reduce Readmissions

“All healthcare 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,” says Doug Brown, managing partner of Black Book Research. “That answer will require the expansion of technology capabilities to connect physician practices, home health agencies, hospices, outpatient settings, skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation centers, DME firms, and hospitals.”

Of the post-acute providers surveyed, 49% assess the state of their staff’s health information technology proficiency as extremely poor or non-existent.

Interoperability

Long-term care administrators report 86% of their facilities are not exchanging health information electronically with referring hospitals, physicians, or home health providers (indicating no improvements in data sharing as compared to the 2017 survey). The far majority (96%) of those sharing some records with acute care providers are networked in closed silo health system EHRs with the long-term care centers. “The enormous disconnect between the post-acute world and the rest of the continuum is not correcting as hoped,” Brown says. “Finding ways to improve communications between disparate acute care EHRs and post-acute technology is a pressing problem for detached providers.”

Analytics

Value-based care requires data aggregation, provider communications, and analytics. The Black Book study highlights that effective post-acute management requires a multidimensional approach that incorporates connectivity between providers, data analytics, and clearly defined care coordination responsibilities. The benefits include reducing readmissions and allowing providers to interactively manage length of stays in sub-acute settings and monitor discharge.

Only 4% of inpatient long-term care providers reported having the capabilities of data-driven analytics to lower cost of care, reduce unnecessary hospital readmissions, and ensure facilities receive proper reimbursement for the care provided to the patient. It is going to take a willingness to adapt and commit to using technology to confront the challenges ahead, but post-acute organizations admit they are not prepared. “Most long-term care organizations are still stuck in a volume-based mindset,” Brown says. “Integrating evidence-based practices through clinical operations can control rising costs, reduce duplication and other inefficiencies, and position the business to be a successful player in the reforming post-acute continuum.”

Care coordination

Black Book predicted in 2014 that extensive and meaningful interoperability between healthcare providers was at least a decade away. “Long-term care facilities are still excluded from operating in a deeply connected care continuum due to limited resources and communication channels,” Brown says. In Q4 2019, 91% of care managers surveyed acknowledge that hospitals send their most complex patients with the highest morbidity to skilled nursing facilities with virtually no communication channels between the SNF and the acute provider.

“The lack of communication is an extremely expensive problem, especially as hospitals become financially responsible for long-term outcomes and preventable patient readmissions,” Brown says. Black Book predicts remote monitoring and video visits will be the temporary solution to allowing hospitals to track patients after discharge until the post-acute care facilities find ways to afford technology with connectivity.

“It’s clear that the lines between payer and provider are blurring and the expectation is that post-acute healthcare organizations must exist in a world of multiple payment scenarios,” Brown says. The study’s polling shows that 80% of long-term care organizations are struggling to account for care, receive proper reimbursement, manage eligibility, proving medical necessity, and institute strong reimbursement, all of which are mandates as the financial environment evolves and reforms.

Other key survey findings:
• 14% of skilled nursing facilities and residential long-term care centers report daily use of an EHR.
• 72% of post-acute organizations report not having the internal human resources or capital to implement an IT strategy and successfully implement solutions in 2019.
• 77% of executives will attempt non-technological collaborations with VBC partnerships in 2020; 8% are hopeful to use currently available health information exchanges (HIEs) and accountable care organization (ACO) resources as value-based care support.
• 10% of post-acute organizations plan to assess some form of updated workflow and/or data analysis tools in the coming calendar year.
• 4% are evaluating or implementing patient engagement solutions in 2020.