Today’s senior living communities are against what seems to be a rock and a hard place: To attract Baby Boomers, these communities must compete in the market by having innovative, modern properties. But to do so will require investments in technology. How can this added expenditure be sold to the board when finances are already tight?
The truth is, senior housing executives are not really in a hard place at all. Money spent on health monitoring technology is money well-spent. With the shift of the U.S. healthcare market toward value based healthcare, health monitoring technology and its accompanying health IT will not only be advisable, it will be required.
Value based healthcare is data driven, with electronic health records providing the basis of care across the entire healthcare continuum. From acute to post-acute care, providers in all settings will be sharing information with each other and with the federal government – in addition to sharing it with their accountable care organizations, should they participate in one.
Senior care is a critical part of this picture, because senior living spaces can help improve their residents’ health and quality of life through preventative care; preventing accidents and falls and encouraging independence. This, in turn, can prevent hospital readmissions. Currently, hospital readmission rates are one of the items the federal government is using to link the senior living space with acute care into a value based payment structure. When senior living communities keep patients safe or monitor their care with monitoring technology, they improve the care, prevent hospital readmissions, and in turn allow their community to reap rewards and avoid penalties.
A recent study conducted by Health Research and Educational Trust and published in PubMed shows that when hospitals refer their patients to preferred senior living spaces, it lowers the rehospitalization rate. The study examined 2.8 million newly discharged patients to 15,063 skilled nursing facilities from 2,477 general hospitals and found when hospitals recommended a preferred senior living space upon discharge, hospital readmission rates within 30 days dropped by 1.2 percent – largely driven by fewer rehospitalizations within a week of hospital discharge.
Authors of the study concluded that hospitals that form “preferential” relationships with senior living spaces can reduce their hospital readmission rates, and thus avoid federal penalties. And these penalties are significant: In October 2014 to September 2015, the third year since the initiation of the Medicare Hospital Readmission Reduction Program, some 2,160 hospitals were penalized to the tune of $480 million, according to Amy E. Boutwell, MD of Collaborative Healthcare Strategies, in a presentation she gave at the Massachusetts Senior Care Association Conference last March.
Value based care depends on coordinated care, and money talks. You want your organization to be noticed by local hospitals as having the best safety ratings, best care ratings and best preventative care available so that they will refer patients to you. And for that, you will need to enter the 21st Century with technology that can assist with that care.
Hospitals aren’t the only ones that will be hit hard under the readmission penalties. In 2018, the federal government will be dishing them out to senior living organizations, as well.
Boutwell says now is the time for senior living organizations to prepare for upcoming readmission penalties. She estimates 40 percent of senior living spaces will receive penalties when the program is launched. “Prepare now. Don’t wait,” she says, because it takes time to get good at preventing readmissions.
Boutwell says reducing readmissions is a “cross-continuum effort” that will require better data and careful attention to post-hospital supports and services.
No matter how you look at it, health monitoring technology can save senior living communities money in the difficult times ahead.