The Silver Tsunami is here, and the U.S. healthcare system is starting to feel the weight of those Baby Boomers entering the retirement years. More and more, people are living longer –- (there’s more people at that point in their lives than ever before) and most Baby Boomers are managing more than one chronic health condition. This all spells a major challenge for the Post Acute Care sector of healthcare.
Recently, the Tennessee Chapter of HIMSS held a CIO dinner series event focused on this topic and how the Post Acute Care (PAC) space is undergoing a radical transformation due to burgeoning demand and how technology is shaping care delivery for this unique segment. Guests Andy Flatt, Chief Information Officer and Bubba McIntosh, Senior Vice President, Operations at National Healthcare Cooperation, shed some light on what’s happening to prep for the ultimate flood coming the Silver Tsunami and strategies to address real-time needs for this space for the other types of patients it serves.
The importance of post acute care stretches beyond just retirement age patients, but to other care models that stretch from rehabilitation to behavioral health in such settings as long-term care hospitals (LTCHs) skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and home health agencies. The levels of care are many and unique, including medication management, chronic disease management, care coordination and understanding social determinants of patients to name a few.
Andy and Bubba emphasized the important accurate, meaningful data plays in their world and how that data has to be actionable and able to drive both real-time decision making and address the longer-term needs of patients. Data in the PAC setting has traditionally been an afterthought or underutilized. With the rise of quality measures to support value care and more patient assessment requirements to support the growing needs of reporting requirements, data is vital not only the business of providing care, but to the business and viable of PAC provider organizations.
Technologies that support functions like care coordination, medication management and chronic disease management are also on the rise in the PAC setting. Many patients with needs in the post acute space have multiple comorbidities and a wide-ranging number of providers. Obtaining the correct clinical and medication information is vital for any patient but is extremely challenging and even more crucial for elderly patients. That’s where technology plays an important role in serving this segment and transformational technology is still emerging that can bring together all this disparate patient and provider information specifically for PACs, as Andy and Bubba highlighted.
In fact, they said technology has the biggest potential for meeting the overall needs of the PAC space, which is largely catching up. Technology has the promise to reduce hospital admissions, improve care coordination, transition care to a more value-based system and improve clinical and financial outcomes. While the Silver Tsunami has started to hit the shore, the time to prepare, invest and build the infrastructure is almost past. Addressing the challenges of this space is an urgent situation. Health IT must play a pivotal role for PAC organizations to succeed.