Efficiency at heart of connected care

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Monday, July 30, 2018

Keeping a tight lid on expenses is paramount for HME providers to keep their finances healthy, and technology can serve as an effective tool for reaching that goal, technology specialists say.

Specifically, using connected care platforms for managing remote patient monitoring can help providers save time, effort and overhead costs while elevating clinical care quality. It also improves HME companies’ competitive positioning in the marketplace, said Nick Knowlton, vice president of strategic initiatives for Lawrenceville, Ga.-based Brightree.

“Being connected in your ecosystem takes cost out of processing orders, and this is key in a market such as ours where reimbursement pressures continue to affect HME providers,” he said. “Connected providers take advantage of lower cost through automating what were once manual processes – reallocating labor to more productive activities. They bring information and documentation in quickly and accurately the first time, lowering the cost of rework. They also spend less time and money chasing their referral sources for paperwork. Through these benefits, they improve their bottom line and financial metrics such as days sales outstanding.”

With the healthcare model shifting towards value-based care, the pressure is on HME providers more than ever to achieve better outcomes for patients at the lowest cost possible, said Tim Murphy, business leader, new business solutions at Murrysville, Pa.-based Philips Sleep & Respiratory.

“With growing healthcare costs, rising readmission rates and reduced reimbursements, this has become increasingly difficult to do, but today’s connected health technologies can help address many of these challenges,” he said. “Connected care solutions are significantly impacting the HME industry by improving treatment adherence, as well as providing data interoperability in billing and reimbursement. As the industry continues to shift toward a value-based care model, HMEs are facing increasing requirements to provide greater documentation and management of ventilation patients monthly. Connected care technology helps to streamline the workflow processes that come with these requirements.”

Bobby Ghoshal, chief technology officer for San Diego-based ResMed, said the company’s remote monitoring platforms have resulted in a nearly 60% reduction in the amount of labor that HMEs need to spend on coaching patients.
“Remote monitoring allows HMEs to streamline their treatment process by remotely identifying which patients need attention now and allowing providers to prioritize patients in need,” he said. “This ‘management by exception’ capability creates a more direct link between clinicians and the patients who can benefit most from personal interaction, without leaving those who are already compliant behind. We believe communication and transparency from both sides of the treatment process is key to successful care, and this is one trend we’ll continue to see evolve.”

Connecting with patients

The digital healthcare ecosystem is an environment where “big data analytics” dwells and it flows from the hospital into every site of patient care. Staying connected to patients with chronic disorders is essential for HME providers caring for patients with COPD, CHF, diabetes, sleep apnea and asthma.

It is precisely for small companies like HMEs that cloud technology was developed, said Amy Friel, vice president of marketing for San Francisco-based LifeAssist Technologies.

“Combining hardware with cloud-based technology is the only way to unleash the full promise of insights driven by ‘big data analytics,’” she said. When HMEs build a cloud platform into their offering, they gain an ability to gather large quantities of real-time usage data simply not available offline.”

New cloud-based “techno-poles” can be applied to a host of chronic conditions and can be aligned and adapted to the requirements of the particular disease state, Frier said.

“Features like real-time group communication and collaboration are ideal for teams managing complex conditions including virtually any chronic disease,” she said. “With challenges ranging from complex care plans to confusing medication regimens and to lifestyle and behavioral change, patients and caregivers can be easily overwhelmed. Technology can provide teams with support ranging from simple to sophisticated.”

Building connectivity into technologies that aid in the at-home treatment of disease allows providers to stay up-to-date on patients’ progress remotely -- a benefit within the treatment of any chronic condition, Ghoshal said.

“By managing sleep apnea, COPD, CHF, diabetes, or any other disease with connected health solutions, more patients can easily and comfortably ‘age in place,’ maintaining their health and the lifestyles they love, at home,” he said. “Clinicians can remotely provide coaching, troubleshoot and check in via these technologies, drastically reducing the need for in-person appointments while enabling all parties to stay connected.”

Murphy pointed out that connected care solutions like Philips Care Orchestrator can help HME providers better stay in touch with all patients while focusing on those that require immediate response and attention.

“The care team can better understand a patient’s therapy and troubleshoot issues early on to help increase compliance with treatment,” he said. “With insights enabling clinicians to focus on the patients in most need, they can also use their patient hours more efficiently, bringing more focus to concerns and questions that require  in-person consultation.”

Connecting with professionals

Connected care also means being plugged in with referral sources and other post-acute providers caring for patients in tandem with the HME provider. By having electronic access to referral sources, HME providers have a built-in advantage in the marketplace, Knowlton said.

“HME providers who take advantage of connected technology are easier to work with and are viewed more as part of the care team for patients,” he said. “The physicians and other care providers who are referral sources to our industry are under tremendous pressure now, too, so by connecting with HME providers, they are able to save time and gain insight into a patient’s post-acute journey.”

As for asserting their role in the post-acute care continuum, Knowlton advises HME providers to “partner with any entity or node of care in their patients’ journeys that improves their care and helps their business operate more efficiently.”

While some HME providers may feel like an island in a sea of healthcare data, Knowlton says the industry is increasingly adopting “scalable and sophisticated” connectivity models.

“The floodgates have opened,” he said. “Forward-thinking HMEs are already taking advantage of this technology to further their care delivery and business goals. But connectivity is now a requirement for doing business in some areas, so the need for HMEs to connect will only grow as other care settings expect their HME providers to be connected.”