A panel of experts discussed how care coordinating technologies that were employed during the pandemic can help improve home care for patients in a post-COVID-19 world.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced healthcare providers to adopt technologies to help manage referrals and assist in the major shift from skilled nursing facilities to home-based care, according to providers who took part in a webinar this week.
CarePort and WellSky hosted the discussion, “Improving referral management & patient care with breakthrough technologies for home health,” featuring Susan Caputo, BSN, MPA, vice president of Business Development at Visiting Nurse Service of New York, and Mike Gregory, RN, chief patient advocacy officer at Intrepid USA. Each offered a perspective on using care coordination technology, with Caputo giving an urban perspective and Gregory giving a rural take.
Emerging Tech to Coordinate Care
As hospital and physician offices shut down, providers were challenged with how to manage the patients that had to be moved from hospitals to home-based care and nursing homes to make room for potential patients with COVID-19.
“We really must have a tool such as CarePort, which is used in our care management organization to see exactly where that patient is and where they're going.… Have they hit the [emergency department]? Can we use our paramedicine probe? What can we do to avoid hospitalization if at all possible? What tools can we use to get them to their physicians’ offices? What kind of monitoring do they need?” said Caputo.
There were also concerns about having to prepare for a sicker type of patient coming into the hospital and how to manage the costs associated with their care. Gregory said that care coordinating tools can help maximize care quality for patients without maximizing costs for the health system.
“You've got to have that technology in place to really be able to segment your patient populations, look at the cost that you're putting in in real time vs the retrospective looks that we were used to in the past, by going back a year later and looking at why the costs were out of control. So, it's absolutely the way of the future,” said Gregory.
The Benefits of Zoom
Caputo touched on how the video conferencing application Zoom has been helpful in ensuring that relationships with sales associates, patients, physicians, and administrative teams were maintained.
“We wanted to almost mimic being in their face by using Zoom….We had to figure out ways to stay connected to our customers and to not lose that customer loyalty. It was a trying time. We’ve got to constantly think and pivot on how to maintain that intimate relationship when we can't sit in a room and be intimate together,” said Caputo.
Zoom could be used to conduct warm handoffs to transport patients who had transplant surgeries home from the hospital. Additionally, family conferences over Zoom were used as a mode to educate caretakers on proper care techniques and set expectations for a patient’s condition.
Pivot to Home-Based Care
Despite many areas around the United States easing COVID-19 restrictions, the panelists noted that although post-acute care referral volumes for home health recovered, referrals for skilled nursing facilities have been slow to return.
Gregory said that he expects home-based care to continue trending upward as a result of the pandemic because patients generally would rather receive care at home than at a facility, especially for patients recovering from surgeries.
However, with home-based care comes the responsibility of making sure that patients are given the proper equipment and support to ensure that patients are still receiving quality health care. Gregory said that employing care coordinating technologies and tools can help alleviate those concerns.
“You've got to have your care plan in place before that patient hits the home setting, if at all possible….The sooner you can get your information to your clinician, get out there and front load your visits, and make sure you're getting those frequent touchpoints, the better the care, the better the outcomes, the happier the patient, and the happier the referral source will be,” said Gregory.