James M. Berklan

Having just returned from another work conference (‘tis the season …), it strikes me that there are always commonalities among these gatherings. Doesn’t matter if the meeting is about marketing a senior care facility, trying to acquire capital to operate or how to enable top managers to do all facets of their job better.

All of the conference programs roll out challenges. (In the old days, we used to call them “problems,” but new-age talk has an, um, problem with that.) And they all come back to a common thread for a solution, or at least relief: Technology.

Whether it’s marketing automation, better electronic health records or better resident monitoring, the “T” word comes into play. Or at least it should.

With not enough bodies to do the work and increasingly complex regulations to contend with, technology is going to be the way to salvation.

That’s what makes a move by the leaders of the National Association for the Support of Long-Term Care so spot-on. NASL, or the Little Engine That Could, as admirers call it, has marshaled resources to hold an IT panel summit at its annual meeting Oct. 13 in Orlando.

Whether or not you’ll be able to attend this must-hear session, it should resonate with you. Big-company IT executives on the same stage, discussing ways to run your business better in an increasingly complicated environment? Yes, please. (Full disclosure: I will be moderating this mid-afternoon discussion. But even if I weren’t, I’d be attending it.)

As NASL leaders note, Merriam-Webster last week added 530 new words to the dictionary. We’re not sure how many of them could directly apply to long-term care. But a few in the “business and finance” subcategory, including pain point and haircut, certainly could be worked into any LTC discussion without much effort.

That’s not to say the long-term / post-acute care sector doesn’t have some of its own new words and phrases to become familiar with. How many of these — PDPM, PDGM, iQIES, TEFCA, FHIR and APIs — do you already have down cold? 

“NASL believes that understanding what these acronyms mean — and how each can impact LTPAC operations — is essential learning,” NASL Executive Vice President Cynthia Morton told me. “That’s why we’ve invited a panel of IT executives to talk candidly about health IT, interoperability and the future of our sector.”

It’s good timing, too, because this week NASL and healthcare stakeholders across the country are celebrating National Health IT Week (#NHITWeek). It’s an observance that focuses on catalyzing change through health information and technology. 

When we sit down Oct. 13, some of the topics the IT gurus will jump into will include:

  • Federal legislation affecting the sector, such as the massive 21st Century Cures Act
  • An “information blocking” provision that could fine health IT developers or vendors $1 million per incident if one’s found to be a data blocker, and
  • How a patient consent factor plays into how you exchange information.

The buzzword of the decade seems to be “interoperability” so that too will be delved into. Why is it taking so long to achieve healthcare interoperability when segments like cell phones have already been successful with it?

Many more topics will be covered in a “speed” round that touches on themes as diverse as data breaches and ransomware attacks to reimbursements, and more.

Speaking of reimbursement, there are few places more ripe to find payoffs than technical upgrades. That is a theme we can expect will be delivered repeatedly at the NASL Information Technology Summit. I wouldn’t want to miss it.

Follow Executive Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.