60% of Referral Sources Favor Home Health Providers Who Accept Electronic Referrals

When it comes to interoperability, 60% of referral sources say they would switch to a home health or hospice provider that accepts electronic referrals over one that does not.

Providers who cater to those wishes could see a business boom — as only 4% of home health and hospice organizations can currently accept electronic referrals from sources’ EMR systems.

These findings come from an interoperability survey by Brightree, a cloud-based healthcare technology company headquartered in Atlanta. The survey itself was conducted by Duluth, Georgia-based market intelligence firm Porter Research and includes responses from 675 home health and hospice providers, as well as 440 referral sources.

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“There is a significant gap between what post-acute care providers are doing versus what their referral sources are wanting from an interoperability and electronic referral perspective,” Nick Knowlton, Brightree vice president of strategic initiatives, told Home Health Care News.

The results further enforce how important it is for home health care providers to embrace technology solutions to make interoperability — or the ability to digitally share information with other health care providers — seamless.

Failing to do so could cost agencies business, the survey suggests.

“The results reveal that interoperability is no longer an option, but an essential aspect of today’s home health and hospice businesses,” Knowlton said. “Without timely and accurate sharing of data across care providers, patients are liable to fall through the cracks or end up back in the hospital with unnecessary readmissions.”

On top of unfavorable outcomes for patients, poor interoperability can also hurt providers’ bottom line.

About two-thirds of home health and hospice respondents said they waste the full-time capabilities of several employees per month tracking down patient data and documents that aren’t available digitally.

“[These] could be obtained with better interoperability models in place, representing a loss of valuable resources that could be spent serving patients and growing business,” Knowlton said. “Very often it is the clinician using treatment time to fetch this information, so we have a great potential impact on provider satisfaction, as well.”

The good news is that a growing number of home health and hospice organizations seem to be taking the leap to improve interoperability.

About 30% of home health and hospice organizations who participated in the survey said they plan to expand their efforts to improve interoperability this year.

“The best step you can take as a home health care provider is to adapt technology that

supports interoperability sooner rather than later,” Knowlton said. “This technology drastically improves the ease of communication for both the referring physician and for your home health care or hospice organization, increasing your likelihood of referrals and allowing for more seamless patient care.”

It’s not only referral sources that are demanding providers improve interoperability. The Centers for Medicare & Medicare and the Department of Health and Human Services are also on board.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed rules to improve data sharing between health care providers and insurers. It would require the adoption of a secure, standard format for electronic patient data by 2020.

Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar preached the importance of prioritizing interoperability last week at the Medicare Advantage (MA) Summit hosted by the Better Medicare Alliance in Washington, D.C.

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