Technology Makes Good Happen in Home Care and Hospice
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Technology Makes Good Happen in Home Care and Hospice

By Kris Dudziak, Senior Manager Business Operations, HealthPartners

Kris Dudziak, Senior Manager Business Operations, HealthPartners

Technology, often progressing faster than practical implementation allows, is crucial to any health care organization’s success. As advanced as we think we are technologically, the home health care arena is just beginning a true cultural shift from provider to patient-centered care.

As we design workflows incorporating new technology solutions, we must consider the fluid nature of home care teams. Patient needs, and associated technology support platforms, will vary based on health condition, disease stage, and socio-economic factors. The home health space typically presents other unique challenges, chiefly, the geographic spread of in-home caregivers and their ability for real-time interface across the care organization while working in patients’ homes. Putting the right mobile tool set in the field is vital.

Mobile tools put patient needs first since home care services can be immediately documented for the care team, even when performed by field staff in isolated geographies.

HealthPartners, an integrated health care system that includes three separate Home Care and Hospice agencies, set out to enhance operational efficiency, investing in a seamless technology platform across the enterprise. Using a unified electronic medical record improves patient care when home caregivers can interact with patients as part of a cohesive healthcare system and positively impacts the organization’s bottom line.

Operational/Technological Partnership Launched

The HealthPartners Home Care Operations and Information Systems and Technology (IS&T) leadership teams reviewed and reshaped the future of this investment in unified technology. Formulating a comprehensive refresh strategy that reflected current and projected future workflows. Together, a detailed hardware replacement timetable was determined.

Beginning with the basics, company-owned smartphones were issued to home care/hospice staff. The phones – provisioned with predetermined apps – gave staff anytime access to the tools required to best do their jobs, manage patient well-being, and increase compatibility with each other. For instance, TigerConnect, among our selected mobile software applications, enables HIPAA-secure text among clinicians, making field staff more agile while mitigating potential security threats to patient data.

Also issued to field staff were point-of-care touch screen laptops, loaded with cohesive software applications and allowing staff across our enterprise to contribute to longitudinal patient records from a single interface. Access to unified electronic medical records with a single, comprehensive medication list, for example, is a profound leap forward for error reduction and patient safety.

We successfully deployed a single software solution across our organization, aligning our home health/hospice infrastructure to impact health care for the better. Detailed project requirements and benchmarks ensured our technology not only met the daily needs of caregivers and their patients but also adhered to strident data governance standards for privacy and security. Ensuring continued compliance with the State of Minnesota’s mandates for electronic medical records, we actively participate in the state’s e-health subgroups to align our organization with regulations and keep current of emerging requirements for our long-term strategies.

Critical Success Factors from a Team Perspective

As home health and hospice agency administrators well know, care quality and smooth operations are placed directly in the hands of care staff; our reputations depend on staff job satisfaction, which can be reflected in how they present themselves to patients. The right technology connectivity makes home health and hospice cares increasingly visible in the health care system for staff, allowing them to better engage as they collect, share, and use information.

A recurring challenge facing home health/hospice agencies is staff recruiting. To attract early-career professionals in particular, we must have the tech they want and need, can relate to, and have comfort using. A company-provided mobile device loaded with current technology platforms is a business necessity, not a preference. It has become a competitive advantage for our organization.

Providing secure tools for staff do their job meets an array of other goals, including ease of use, connectivity, work/life balance, and worker safety. Launching a single technological tool triggered a fundamental redesign of workflows and business process while improving overall team engagement.

Critical Success Factors From a Patient Perspective

Connecting patients and caregivers is crucial toward advancing a safe, reliable home care experience. The advancing use of technology, particularly among tech savvy 55+ users, our home health/hospice patient core demographic, is evident. This patient segment routinely uses smartphones, iPads, and wearable devices, fueling the demand for anytime access to up-to-date health care information.

Consumers demand value, everywhere care, integration of data, online searches for information related to health and treatment options. While many seek immediate gratification, the positioning of technology infrastructure, such as laptops, company-owned smartphones, use of HIPAA-compliant texting and patient/caregiver verification make it possible to make significant inroads toward that goal.

Patients and families want to have a say in their care and influence treatment options. The mounting ability to connect to multiple technological (Internet of Things) devices will create added benefits of addressing the value-based care outcomes and cost-effective, patient-preferred, care-at-home models.

The HealthPartners corporate brand expression, “Make Good Happen,” was thread throughout our deployment efforts. We made good happen when we understood technology’s vital link to the home care space to elevate patient care and satisfaction paired with arming our employees with the secure tools they need to do their best work.

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