Home health providers — and other long-term and post-acute care organizations — haven’t kept pace with other care settings when it comes to interoperability.
That’s according to a recent report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Overall, the report found that 80% home health organizations and nursing homes are implementing electronic health records (EHRs) as solutions for clinical and business needs.
Still, this hasn’t resulted in the wide use of interoperable exchange of health information across these organizations. The report pointed to factors such as a lack of monetary incentives, toothless policy requirements and a failure to see the strong business case to increase interoperability as some of the reasons for lackluster adoption.
At its core, interoperability is about communication, Tim Ingram, executive vice president of interoperability at Axxess, told Home Health Care News.
“It’s how do we get the right information from one solution, or one care setting, to the right location,” he said. “That’s why interoperability is important. We have so many patients seeing so many different physicians and going to different hospitals, and working with different home care providers.”
Although home health providers, and other long-term and post-acute care organizations, are behind in terms of interoperability, other care settings have been incentivized by government programs, according to the HHS report.
“There is something known as meaningful use in the health system setting where the government basically paid incentives to hospitals and health systems to become interoperable,” Ingram said. “In other words, to transfer everything into digital health records. Those incentives never made it to anyone in the post-acute space. For that reason, we are lagging behind.”
In comparison, more than 85% of ambulatory practices and 95% of hospitals are utilizing some form of EHR to document patient care and share data.
It’s not just the post-acute care setting that got left behind. Behavioral health providers were also left out of meaningful use, which has, in turn, contributed to just 46% of psychiatric hospitals using EHRs today.
Ingram believes the extra emphasis placed on value-based care and consumer choice are driving further interoperability in home health care.
“The payers have a greater interest in what they are paying for,” he said. “Also, some of it is driven by the consumer mentality — ‘I want to be able to control my care.’”
Home health providers that want to beef up interoperability at their organizations need to form partnerships with software companies that have interconnected solutions, according to Ingram.
“Is your software solution connected with the rest of the health care ecosystem,” he said.
Ultimately, Ingram believes that home-based care providers were left on the outside looking in of HHS’ interoperability push.
“It would have been even better if HHS had focused where patients really want to be, [and] that’s in the home,” he said. “If that same dedication from HHS were applied to home health, then we would be seeing the same results that you’re seeing now and in hospitals, in terms of interoperability.”