Indiana-based CarDon & Associates launched an mHealth messaging platform in January, and is seeing improved care management and coordination as a result.
For senior living facilities eyeing telehealth to improve care and staff workloads, an mHealth messaging platform may be the best place to start.
CarDon & Associates, which operates 20 senior living communities across Indiana, rolled out a digital communications service this past January. The web- and app-based platform enables instant two-way communication between care providers, replacing phone calls, e-mails and even the dreaded and still-relied-upon fax machine.
“Right now, in our industry, the hot topic is care coordination,” says Laura Litke, the organization’s director of clinical coordination. “All of these messages back and forth are super-time-sensitive … and it’s tough trying to make phone calls or sit by a fax machine waiting for that connection.”
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While many hospitals and health systems have jumped onto the telehealth bandwagon, particularly in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, post-acute care facilities like senior living centers have moved more slowly. Many are hamstrung by tight budgets and intimidated by the challenges of adopting new technology or figuring out reimbursement.
A communications platform offers an ideal first step into connected health, and it targets one of the most problematic pain points in post-acute care: hospital readmissions.
The key to improving care management and coordination, Litke says, lies in getting information to care providers as quickly as possible on the patient’s condition. Clinicians, whether they’re in the facility, on call or at the nearest hospital, need to be kept up to date, and contacted whenever there’s an indication that a patient’s status is changing or if a nurse has a concern.
“The sooner they get information on a patient, the sooner they can react,” says Litke. If they act fast enough and can treat the patient at the senior living facility, she notes, they’ll prevent the need for a costly, time-consuming and potentially life-threatening transfer back to a hospital. In addition, those transfers can come back to haunt facilities through penalties and reduced efficiency ratings if federal regulators rule them preventable.
Litke says facility managers who fret over the price tag for a communications platform may be missing the point.
“It’s more about cost savings and care coordination rather than billing,” she says.
CarDon uses a messaging platform developed by Olio, which is also based in Indiana. They’re one of dozens of companies in the space, offering a variety of HIPAA-compliant services that run from text and audio messaging to video and image-sharing platforms.
For senior living facilities, the challenge lies in finding a messaging platform that can fir smoothly into the facility’s workflow, reducing the need for expensive technical upgrades or disruptions. Some may prefer a program that uses supplied (and managed) mobile devices, while other prefer a platform that can integrate with one’s own smartphone.
Integration with electronic health records platforms is a nice benefit, though not always easy. Some platforms can easily accommodate messaging and image-sharing, while others require the service to be bolted on or kept separate.
Education is also important. Providers need the time to learn and get used to the platform, so they know what they can and can’t do.
Litke says the ideal platform for CarDon enables quick and easy messaging between endpoints – most messages are answered within three minutes. She notes the platform needs to be adopted by users at both ends, so CarDon has to make sure local hospitals, medical practices and clinics are using the service as well.
She sees plenty of room for expansion, and notes that CarDon went from a few messages per day in the early part of the day to “communications on anything happening to any patient” at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. She’d like to see the platform expanded to take in other providers, such as rehab facilities and home health care services.
“The more you use something like this, the better you become at it, the more efficient it becomes,” she says. “We’re able to communicate much more quickly now than we did in the past, and that’s helping us to improve our care.”
Source: mHealth Intelligence