CEO chat: Unlike jeans, care transitions won’t fade over time

Walking around the HIMSS floor a few weeks ago, I was bombarded with all the new buzz words and hot topics for 2015 and reminded of how many have come and gone over the past several years.

Yet, for the first time in a decade, everyone was talking about care transitions and care coordination and how important they are for value-based care. "Welcome to the party," I thought, and then, "it's about time." At Curaspan, care transitions have been our focus for the past 15+ years. We have always known that good care transitions are the foundation for successful care coordination and the key to success as the healthcare industry advances. It also occurred to me that unlike some HIMSS buzz words — and my favorite pair of jeans — care transitions won't fade over time.

Just Scratching the Surface of Care Transitions
There's no doubt that the healthcare system has made major strides with the adoption of EHRs, but we still have a ways to go to truly impact better patient care and outcomes. This was brought home to me recently when a family member was hospitalized with a stroke. While in the hospital, we were trying to get him into a specific rehabilitation facility. Confirmation was taking quite a while, so I called the rehab facility's intake coordinator to see what was holding up the process and if they had availability. As it turned out, the rehab facility uses Curaspan to electronically manage many of its hospital referrals, but the hospital where my family member was admitted still relies on paper, phone and fax to send the information out. So, while the case managers played phone tag and waited for the information they needed to come over fax, my family member stayed in the hospital and my family and I sat in limbo, uncertain as to where he would end up.

EHR Technology is Not Enough

All in all, my family member's discharge was delayed about 24-hours, but it really showed that there is still a lot of work to be done to close the gaps in communication. Even though the hospital and rehab facility were both members of a world-class healthcare system, they still had to rely on a manual process to discharge my famil member. Their process won't be fixed anytime soon either, since this health system is currently investing a massive amount of money over the next three years in replacing an existing EHR with a new one. Regardless, the root of my frustration was that the hospital's process not only impacted my family member's patient experience, but also caused additional stress for our family.

Addressing Care Transitions

So, with all this talk around care transitions, what are the key technology ingredients needed to help providers improve them? Here are my thoughts on what hospitals should consider when seeking care transition technology:

1. Understand the end user.

-  Who will actually be in charge of collecting and exchanging information across the care continuum?
-  What workflows will make their job easier?
-  How will they be held accountable?

2. Assess how the technology fits into the end user's workflow.

-  Will the technology add unnecessary work to providers of care?
-  Will it reduce administrative tasks?
-  Will it standardize workflows and eliminate process variability?
-  Will the technology give providers more time with the patient?

3. Leverage your existing and/or future EHR Investments.

-  Can you build tools/applications on top of your existing IT infrastructure that enhance your EHR?
-  Does the solution interoperate with other EHRs?
-  How long will it take to implement the technology?
-  How long will it take for the technology to have a positive impact on patient care and/or ROI?
-  Can you build the technology in parallel with major capital investments?

Care Transitions are a Foundation for Care Coordination

The conversations and discussions at HIMSS made it clear that care transitions are an important issue. However, my recent experience showed me that we are at the point where we need to move beyond these discussions and take action now to improve care transitions. Addressing care transitions today as a foundation for care coordination will only make healthcare provider organizations stronger as the healthcare industry continues to evolve.

Want to learn more on how care transitions are the foundation for care coordination? Check out our new whitepaper.

Tom Ferry is President and CEO of Curaspan and has led Curaspan from concept to industry leader since its inception in 1999. Driven by the desire to solve complicated problems while working with exceptional people, he transformed an experience with a family member's hospital discharge into the leading provider of patient transition solutions. Today, he continues to lead the strategic direction and overall management of the company. Before founding Curaspan, he was the VP of business development for American Hearing Centers, where he helped triple the company's growth through strategic acquisitions. He also held a senior business-development role at Thermo Electron Corporation and led the international Specialty Chemicals Business, a division of Monsanto. He earned a BA in Chemistry from Cornell University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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