This article is sponsored by Maxwell Healthcare Associates. In this Voices interview, Home Health Care News sits down with Maxwell Healthcare Associates CEO and co-founder Jennifer Maxwell to learn how home-based care providers can automate and optimize their current technology to build momentum going into 2023. She stresses the importance of transparency and clarity as new processes are rolled out, and she explains how leadership can best prepare its staff for these kinds of transitions.
Home Health Care News: Looking ahead to next year, particularly with respect to the Home Health Value-Based Purchasing Program and OASIS-E, what do you see when you look at the home-based care industry landscape?
Jennifer Maxwell: It’s amazing. Every year there’s always something that comes up in this space. When we think about health care and post-acute care, it’s an ever-changing model where we’re either chasing it or trying to stay ahead of it. An example of this is the acceleration of the VBP expansion as well as the change in the baseline year data that agencies have been using to prepare for the expansion. This has been very frustrating for those agencies that have been trying to get ready. The term “flying blind” has been the buzz word as of late.
Agencies are feeling the pressure to streamline, optimize and centralize to ensure the best results without knowing where they’ll be in 2023. On top of all of this, the proposed cuts have been creating added stress and concern. I’m hopeful that the Preserving Access to Home Health Act of 2022 legislation will be positive for the industry so that agencies can return focus on patient care. Right now there are a lot of unknowns — it’s a very tumultuous time, combing all of this amongst some of the most significant staffing issues, there is a lot of freezing and not expanding, and organizations are focusing internally on themselves.
What does a gap analysis of one’s home-based care organization look like in preparation for 2023?
Maxwell: The gap analysis is looking at any non-patient-facing tasks within the organization. Examples of this are intake, scheduling, auth/eligibility, etc. These are the functions that organizations really need to look at. How do we optimize, automate, and centralize? It’s about figuring out how to run an efficient, well-oiled machine on the backside, while being able to focus on patient care and outcomes.
What are the key steps agencies must take in order to optimize their work?
Maxwell: Agencies are paying lots of money for EMRs, interfaces and other things that will help automate their workflow. It’s important to dive into that and ensure the technology in and of itself is running effectively and efficiently. Are their workflows set up correctly, do they have their payors entered correctly, have they identified any redundancies that can be eliminated and streamlined, are just a few areas to look at. As well as automation for clinicians so they’re documenting to the best of their ability for each patient’s care. Providers need to really dig in and evaluate all areas within their EMR and figure out the best way to eliminate redundancy, and look to optimize the most important things so that caregivers are able to focus on patient care rather than sitting on a computer.
Once you have identified all areas of optimization, and a plan, training your staff to leverage and use the technology better is next. I would stress it is not just to train to the new, make sure to take time to explain the “why” behind all of it. You will get a lot better buy-in and adoption once you consider the “why”; it means a lot to the end user.
Staying focused on centralizing those components so that the clinician is spending more time at the bedside versus sitting in a back office with a stack of administrative tasks is key. They didn’t go into business to be an admin, they went into the business to be a clinician, so let’s empower them and let’s centralize those non-facing pieces of the organization so that the nurses can be out in the field.
How can agencies automate the processes you just mentioned to ensure compliance and readiness for next year?
Maxwell: There’s a lot of great technology out there as it relates to automation. I’d encourage agencies to look into any kind of robot process automation (RPA) opportunities to be able to automate workflows, because then you’re running a 24/7 shop. Your robot’s not going to get sick, take vacation or quit on you.
Automation today also has built-in quality assurance (QA) processes as well. The older RPAs didn’t have that internal QA component built into their systems. Now you’re seeing more robust RPA organizations bringing that to the next level.
As for compliance and readiness, I recommend going through a VBP operational assessment. Looking at all the components and dialing in on what they need to look like for 2023 enables providers to create an education plan for the staff so they know how to document and what to look for. 2023 is going to hit us like a rocket here and if all of this stuff comes down the pike and you’re not prepared for it, it’s going to be even harder because you can’t go backwards and your team won’t be ready.
We’re encouraging folks to get in, whether it’s through a third party or a QA team, and look at value-based purchasing to do an operational assessment based on what requirements must be met.
What results can agencies achieve as they both optimize and automate processes?
Maxwell: Once these pieces of technology are automated and running seamlessly, it’s about going into the back side of the technology and building out the reports and the dashboards. Whether it’s the clinical manager, branch manager, C-suite, whoever that might be, it’s building a set of reports that serve as a real-time barometer for your organization.
By getting key pieces of the business automated and centralized along with building those analytical reports, providers aren’t finding problems 60 days later. They’re able to catch it real time and correct it and everyone is clear about what needs to happen for the health of that organization.
What are the biggest problems that agencies might face if they are not prepared for these changes?
Maxwell: They’re going to have those continued redundancies, poor quality, staff burnout, and retention issues. We’re already lacking the staff to help us provide care at the bed side, let alone run the back office on top of it. Now with VBP coming into play, agencies will be scrutinized even more against the cohorts within their regional area, and if they are not prepared they will see additional cuts.
Finish this sentence: “The top strategy that home health providers should employ in 2022 to best prepare for 2023 is…”
Centralization and automation.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Maxwell Healthcare Associates is a team of post-acute industry veterans passionate about helping home health and hospice providers thrive amid healthcare’s disruptive environment. They bridge gaps and advance care by creating solutions focused on people, processes, and technology. To learn more about Maxwell Associates’ home health solutions, visit maxwellhca.com.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact [email protected].