The hospice care experience is built on personal contact between patients and their care teams, but the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic made that difficult, even impossible in some care facilities. Agencies struggled with reduced access to patients and referrers. Many hospices turned to technology solutions like telemedicine, and industry experts expect that trend to continue.
Participants in the 2021 Hospice News Outlook and Survey are bullish on other types of hospice technology as well. Hospice technology solutions and industry partnerships can help agencies keep pace with a rapidly changing health care landscape.
Staff Shortages: Greatest Challenge Next to COVID
This year, survey respondents listed staffing as the greatest non-COVID-related challenge for 2021. It’s been a problem for years, but COVID pushed many hospice and palliative care professionals to the breaking point. New York City hospitals were so overwhelmed that they requested help from palliative care professionals across the country who could work remotely with patients and families.
Combine an already-stressful job with an acute staffing shortage, and it’s no wonder that over 60% of hospice clinicians experience burnout.
HCHB’s hospice technology tools can help improve a clinician’s daily work experience with point-of-care software that delivers real-time patient data, allows caregivers to complete documentation on-site, and supports care-team communication. Clinicians can spend time doing what they do best —working with patients and their families.
Improve Information Flow with EHR/EMR Tools
Twenty-nine percent of survey respondents identified EHR/EMR as technology that can provide the greatest ROI in 2021. Value-based payment models require EHRs, and interoperability is a huge issue for referrers. In 2019, 73% of acute care providers said they were putting a higher priority on implementing interoperable systems for transferring patients to skilled nursing facilities or other providers. Agencies that prioritize interoperability are more attractive to referrers.
HCHB’s partnership with eMDs supports critical and timely information flow from one system to another. It offers a certified solution to enroll in the SIP program. Our HCHB Connect Suite supports interoperability across the entire healthcare community. We supply solutions tailored to fit your agency’s needs and help you comply with the new payment models and outcomes measurement initiatives.
Survey respondents also noted the potential of predictive analytics to improve care and offer a high level of ROI. Many agencies and referrers are experimenting with a variety of hospice technology tools that help identify patients who could benefit from earlier hospice care.
Length-of-stay is an important metric for agencies. A patient becomes eligible for hospice once they have a prognosis of six months or less with a life limiting condition. However, many patients don’t enter hospice until the final weeks (or days) of their lives. Earlier hospice care is linked to higher patient and family satisfaction, which can help agencies improve their CAHPS and HQRP performance.
Other hospice predictive analytics tools help clinicians create and monitor care plans at extreme end-of-life. HCHB partner, Muse Healthcare, offers a machine learning system that helps clinicians identify the best therapeutic options for patients.“Muse HC examines more than 800 assessment points from frequent visits to identify which hospice patients are more likely to decline in their disease within 7-10 days.”
Grow Referrer Partnerships with Referral Management Tools
Survey respondents predict that the largest growth opportunity for referral partnerships this year will be from physician relationships. Pre-COVID, agency representatives built referral partnerships with in-person visits that included education and advocacy for hospice care. Much of that work now must be handled remotely.
Later this year, as vaccines become more available, sales representatives who have received their COVID-19 vaccinations may be able to resume in-person visits.
HCHB’s Referral Source Link integrates with HCHB Analytics and Trella Health claims data to help individual sales representatives track their progress compared to their goals. The full suite of HCHB analytics incorporates Trella’s data to provide vital business intelligence needed to help sales teams analyze areas with high referral potential and educate physicians about the benefits of hospice.
Mergers and Acquisition Activity Is Increasing
M&A activity fell sharply in early 2020, as attention abruptly shifted from growing to simply holding on during the worst of the pandemic. Hospice M&A activity quickly bounced back. It grew by 70% during the 4th quarter of 2021, and “isn’t expected to slow during 2021,” according to a study released by Mertz Taggert.
Hospice agency valuations have been increasing in spite of COVID, making M&A particularly attractive to investors, private equity, and health care providers who want to vertically integrate their services.
HCHB clients can rely on our potent combination of HCHB data analytics and Trella Health’s Medicare claims data to target areas and agencies that offer expansion potential. This helps remove some of the risk and guesswork involved in M&A. You can make decisions based on clinical outcomes and quality.
Make HCHB Your Hospice Technology Partner
Agencies that implement hospice technology tools to increase care team communication, streamline data sharing, and improve patient care are more attractive to referral partners. HCHB can help your agency take advantage of EHR technology’s full potential.
Contact us to learn how you can leverage HCHB’s business intelligence, operations, and back office tools to meet the challenges of 2021 – and beyond.