It takes two: Integrating hospitals and post-acute care

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Troy Hilsenroth
Troy Hilsenroth
As mandates from the Affordable Care Act continue to roll out, the healthcare industry, and more specifically, the long-term care (LTC) market (also known as post-acute care), is in the center of a seismic paradigm shift. In order to remain profitable and improve patient care, all LTC organizations must dramatically change how they operate, as larger hospital systems are closely reevaluating how they work with LTC providers. 

While integration with post-acute care environments has not historically been tied into the traditional hospital system structure, a mutual desire to reduce hospital readmissions has recently inspired both sides of the care spectrum to join forces as one.

There's no question about it — the ability to keep patients healthy directly impacts the bottom line of all LTC environments. Because of this, more C-level executives in long-term care are looking to join Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and team with acute care hospitals, forming deeper partnerships that strengthen their knowledge base, network and long-term success. And conversely, as hospitals are under increasing financial pressure to reduce hospital readmissions, many are choosing to partner with LTC organizations to ensure there are not two standards of care, but rather, a continuous flow of seamless excellence that decreases their chances of seeing readmitted patients. In a nutshell, hospital referrals are now essentially the life blood for all post-acute care environments. Without them, survival will be difficult. So here's the magic question: how can post-acute care centers appeal to larger acute care hospitals and keep the referrals coming? Here are a few suggestions:

1.   Standardize your technology

Across ACOs, it's quite common to see a number of disparate technologies in place throughout various hospitals. While it can be quite difficult to standardize technology and deliver true interoperability across such large networks, it's critical that hospitals and long-term care centers forming new partnerships have similar technology in place, which helps improve hospital efficiency and training across the continuum of care. As ACOs look to vertically integrate skilled nursing centers, healthcare CEOs will undoubtedly turn to providers with the best technology already in place.

2.   Increase communication

Collaboration is key in any partnership, and as hospitals and long-term care providers forge deeper relationships, regular communication is vital to keeping a consistently high and parallel level of patient care. Hospitals must provide clinical guidance on patient care plans, medication regimen and medical records as they transition patients into the acute care setting, working directly with long-term care providers to facilitate seamless transfers.

3.   Timely access to medication management technology

It's astonishing, but nearly 2.6 million[1] Medicare beneficiaries are readmitted to hospitals within 30 days of their release every year—these numbers are unacceptable. As patients move from hospitals to post-acute care environments, maintaining a consistent medication management process can help combat this epidemic, which costs Medicare patients an estimated $17 billion in preventable hospital bills yearly.[2] While hospitals and LTC providers establish new relationships, timely access to needed medications located in automated cabinets, such as Omnicell's G4 Unity platform, ensures that patients receive the continuity of care that is associated with higher clinical quality and customer satisfaction. Improved patient outcomes will result in collateral benefits that reach far beyond any mandates of healthcare reform.  

The integration of healthcare systems and long-term care has made tremendous progress in the past two or three years, but we still have a long way to go. At the end of the day, we still have the same goal —helping to improve outcomes for patients. I for one am excited to see how this growing union of consistent care can make this goal a reality.

 

Troy Hilsenroth is the vice president, vendor solutions at Omnicell


[1] Craver, Richard. "Advice to hospitals: You are "big, rich, powerful" so fix readmissions." Winston-Salem Journal 2 3 2013, n. pag. Print.

[2] Lavizzo-Mourey, R. (2013). The Revolving Door: A Report on U.S. Hospital Readmissions. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


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