Interoperability reaches the HME referral process

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Goodbye gaps in care; hello accuracy and efficiency

In this day and age, healthcare is moving toward maximizing quality and efficiency, while also minimizing cost. The entire industry is adapting to using technology as a means of streamlining administrative operations, which is evident in the widespread adoption of electronic medical records software in hospitals and clinics throughout the nation. To reap the benefits, however, health systems and home medical equipment (HME) providers must connect and interoperate.

The industry’s hottest buzzword – interoperability – has started to have an enormous impact on how we deliver care in many settings. Unfortunately, it hasn’t accounted for the needs of the HME provider – until now. HME providers have essentially been left in the dark, which has translated into hospitals and other referral sources having little idea of what happened to their patients post-encounter.

Finally, interoperability is here for the HME care setting, offering independent providers a competitive advantage over their “unplugged” counterparts and providing health systems unprecedented means to connect a neglected area of patient care. For HME providers looking to not only survive but thrive in the future of healthcare, interoperability is essential. To solve interoperability issues for HMEs, a new solution is now on the forefront – electronic or e-referral management.

The next stage of modernization is here, and those who miss out risk getting left behind.

So, what’s an e-referral management system?

An electronic referral management system is a unique and powerful tool for health providers to keep track of their patient referrals throughout the care continuum. Its main goal is to improve and streamline communication amongst care providers in a patient’s journey, including HME providers. Ultimately, the aim is to improve the overall quality of care being provided by increasing transparency, reducing operational inefficiencies and enhancing existing processes for healthcare organizations, both large and small.

For HME providers, an e-referral management system provides the ability to seamlessly move referrals, prescriptions, orders, and documentation into an electronic workflow so that referrals are located natively within both the physician’s and the HME’s workflows, and documentation and data are stored appropriately in each system.

Without e-referral management, the old mode of faxing or phoning in orders, documentation and referrals would continue to proliferate the HME marketplace. This antiquated phone-and-fax method robs providers of both time and efficiency; however, with e-referral in place, HME providers and their referral sources can shift to the modern method of electronic data exchange that providers are desperately seeking and actively demanding.

Reaping the benefits of electronic patient referrals

The benefits of an e-referral management solution are widespread and can help address some of the system-wide problems found throughout the healthcare industry.

1. Delivering interoperability to HMEs to better connect providers and patients for post-acute care encounters.
Poor communication and coordination of care between primary care and specialty care providers leads to major inefficiencies in healthcare delivery. With e-referrals, all providers can be fully up to speed on the patient’s overall care plan, allowing equipment and supplies to be delivered more accurately and quickly to patients. In addition, it reduces disruptive and duplicate work by increasing productive communication between the providers, patients and clinicians.

2. Automating the referral process from within the provider’s native workflow.
With an e-referral solution, all providers can work within their native workflows, eliminating “swivel chair” processes and the use of extraneous third-party portals for data transmission. It provides immediate access to accurate patient records via an automatic flow of data, saving time and money while enhancing operational efficiencies and patient interactions.

3. Reaffirming the HME’s place in the healthcare continuum.
By utilizing an e-referral solution, providers have the ability to pursue advanced interoperability initiatives, helping to elevate the position of the HME provider in the healthcare world. For those who want to be seen as innovative, game-changing and industry-leading – e-referral is a must.

All results point to positive returns for those who leverage interoperable technologies. In fact, more than 90 percent of providers utilizing interoperability report improvements to overall patient care quality. With an e-referral management system, providers can finally automate the transmission of data from health systems to HME customers’ systems, saving many resource hours that can be reallocated to patient-focused activity. No longer do health systems have to worry about gaps in care due to lack of patient-centric interoperability. The ability to interoperate means maximizing relations between HMEs and referring providers, driving additional benefits, both tangible and intangible, toward better patient care.

One thing is certain – interoperability is essential, and it’s finally here for a long-neglected care segment. By taking proactive steps toward identifying how technology fits into overall business models and adopting an e-referral management solution, HME providers can ensure a seamless experience for patients, and health systems can successfully address the last mile of care delivery.

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About the Author
Nick Knowlton is the vice president of strategic initiatives for Brightree, where he leads the company’s approach to health care interoperability. Knowlton also co-founded CommonWell Health Alliance and serves in a leadership role. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame and lives in Denver with his wife and three children.

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