In traditional medical practice, doctors work in silos. A general practitioner rarely knows what a specialist is doing, and one prescribing physician may not know what pills another doctor may be dispensing to a patient.
This fragmented approach has been shown to be expensive, inefficient and ultimately detrimental to patient well-being. Lately the government has been pushing hard for more coordinated care aong medical professionals: HealthIT.gov insists that providers “need less fragmented views of patients.”
While systemic changes are needed within the healthcare system itself – how a patient is seen, by whom, and how records are kept – new technology solutions also are proving to be a helpful way to get the ball rolling when it comes to care coordination. For leaders of senior housing, these technologies represent a long-term investment in resident wellness, and in the success of the business.
1. Electronic health record systems
Also known as EHRs, often are seen as the cornerstone of any coordinated care effort. These systems give care providers a way to integrate and organize patient health information, and to ensure its timely distribution among relevant practitioners.
EHR systems can operate with little human intervention. Once set up properly, these systems can distribute information automatically, while still preserving patient privacy. This is a major improvement for seniors in particular, who may be visiting multiple practitioners. Coordination eases the burden on the patient of having to recall and report each doctor’s instructions at every office visit.
2. Computerized provider order entry
Computerized provider order entry (CPOE) is another technology advocated by the Department of Housing and Human Services. This technology allows a physician to enter medication orders, as well as orders for tests and other procedures, into a system that communicates directly with the pharmacy.
These systems also can be used to ensure coordination among other caregivers, by offering a powerful means to ensure that all doctors’ orders are consistent with one another, and are working in the patient’s interests. That’s as it should be. The average person 65 to 69 years old takes nearly 14 prescriptions per year, while those aged 80 to 84 take an average of 18 prescriptions per year. These seniors should not be saddled with knowing and understanding the complex interactions of their various medications. Automation ensures better and safer medicine for all involved.
3. Interoperable solutions
Interoperable solutions may refer to a broad range of technologies, all of which can help to facilitate open communications among practitioners. Present-day, fragmented medical record keeping systems typically were not built with data-sharing in mind. Hence, any given doctor’s office may be running on technology that is out of alignment with another office.
Interoperability may encompass policies, services, technology standards or compatibility of software. Seniors may not know the intricate details of these systems. What they should know – and what they will increasingly demand – is that their practitioners are up to speed in these technologies. They want to know that the doctor they trust for care also can be trusted to coordinate that care with all the other providers that make up their medical support team.
What does all this mean for the senior housing executive? Ultimately care coordination leads to better resident health, which in turn drives satisfaction while also helping to keep costs in check. As care coordination becomes more of a reality, will your own technologies be up to the task, and will you be able to remain on the cutting edge of understanding when it comes to residents’ desires and physicians’ capabilities?