How Post-Acute Facilities Can Improve Workflows and Patient Care Coordination

From a care-coordination standpoint, it would be ideal if a patient’s entire healthcare journey took place in a single location. The patient’s primary care physician could take an elevator to the surgical floor and speak directly with that team about the unique circumstances of the patient’s upcoming procedure. After surgery, the acute-care staff could walk over to the post-acute wing—an onsite Skilled Nursing Facility or Inpatient Rehab Facility, for example—to discuss how that team could help ensure a healthy recovery.

Unfortunately, healthcare doesn’t work this way. The steps along a patient’s journey—including primary care, acute care, and long term post-acute care (LTPAC)—typically all take place in different locations, administered by teams who will never meet or discuss the patient with each other. With no centralized location for coordinating the continuum of care, providers rely on technology to quickly find important answers to specific patient questions. But because providers’ technologies are often disjointed, error-prone, or incompatible, patient handoffs from one facility to another can be the most dangerous time in a patient’s healthcare journey.

Ineffective Data-Sharing Technologies Can Add Risk During Patient Handoffs to LTPAC Providers

Research shows that when a hospital transfers a patient to an LTPAC facility, such as a Home Health Agency or Skilled Nursing Facility, the data sharing between the two providers is typically a combination of a hardcopy Continuity of Care document, paper-based faxes containing additional instructions, and phone calls or emails to communicate other details pertinent  to the patient’s care.

Because these technologies are ad hoc, labor intensive, and prone to human error, LTPAC providers face real risks administering treatment to new patients transferred to them from acute care. To cite just one example, poorly written fax instructions can lead to an incorrect dosage of a patient’s medication—or administering the wrong medicines entirely.

These Risks Are Widespread

And in case you’re wondering, these risks are not limited to a small portion of behind-the-times post-acute facilities. They affect the handoffs of literally millions of patients every year.

According to 2019 research reported in Healthcare Innovation, 36% of acute-care providers use manual-only strategies to coordinate patient transitions with post-acute care facilities.

Worse, a 2019 study by Black Book Market Research found that nearly half of post-acute providers (49%) describe their health information technology proficiency as “extremely poor” or “non-existent.”

Digital Interoperability Technologies Post-Acute Providers Should Be Using

If phone calls and paper faxes are inefficient and risk-prone methods for hospitals to communicate patient information to their post-acute partners, which technologies should these providers be using to facilitate a successful patient handoff? There are several more effective, streamlined, and reliable point solutions on the market, including:

  • EHR systems
  • Patient query
  • Digital cloud fax technology
  • Electronic ADT notifications
  • Direct messaging from DirectTrust
  • …and others

The problem is that this is a considerable list of solutions—each addressing only one specific area of digital interoperability, and not all of which will necessarily work seamlessly with the others.

A patient query solution can help a post-acute facility locate details of a patient’s medical history. But if it doesn’t integrate with the facility’s fax infrastructure, and the staff needs to communicate the data by fax, they will need to leave the query system and complete several manual steps. This will complicate the facility’s workflows, rather than streamlining them.

Or consider the case of a post-acute care team communicating via Direct message with a hospital about a new patient’s transfer. If the hospital team wants to send instructions by fax—and the LTPAC facility doesn’t have faxing integrated into its Direct messaging account—the staff will again have to toggle between apps and add several manual steps to their workflows.

Of course, the post-acute provider might be able to tie all of these disparate solutions together using point solutions, APIs, and custom coding. But that undertaking will require a great deal of time, effort, and resources.

The Post-Acute Care Solution Suite That Brings It All Together

Fortunately, there is an easier and more cost-effective way to implement all of these technologies in a single digital toolset for patient data-sharing. That toolset is Consensus from J2 Global, a comprehensive solution suite for post-acute care providers.

With Consensus, a full suite of interoperability and workflow applications, a post-acute care facility’s staff will have:

  • All of the data-sharing technologies necessary to streamline workflows and improve the safety of patient handoffs—including patient query, Direct messaging, digital cloud fax technology, and access to data exchange networks such as HIEs and ACOs.
  • Easy interoperability and the ability to communicate seamlessly with all EHR platforms.
  • The streamlined workflows your staff needs to stay connected and informed through each patient’s continuum of care.
  • The ability to easily receive, review, analyze, and send patient information via a user-friendly dashboard.

To learn more, download our free white paper:
Post-Acute Care Facilities: Orchestrating Better Clinical Workflows Just Got Easier

Jeff Solis