Mobile healthcare (mhealth) technology is undergoing a fundamental shift. In the past, the main focus when building mhealth apps was to ensure compliance with regulations. Now that technology and design-focused thinking have evolved to make systems that can achieve much more than the digitization of records, compliance is practically a given with most new home healthcare technology. Today’s leaders in healthcare IT are looking for intuitive solutions that go beyond digital compliance to actually helping improve patient outcomes and key performance indicators (KPIs), such as reduction in rehospitalization rates.
For many home healthcare providers, that sounds like a tall order. It can be difficult to balance the needs of your patients with the needs of your business. Throw compliance and competition into the mix, and the challenge can seem insurmountable. However, necessity truly is the mother of invention, and there is plenty of mhealth technology available to make the impossible possible—and perhaps even easy.
Trends Influencing Home Healthcare
As the world of mobile healthcare changes, there are certain trends that providers need to adapt to:
- Pressure to reduce costs: Healthcare providers are under intense pressure to reduce costs without sacrificing quality of care. In fact, most providers are expected to improve their services while decreasing their expenditures.
- The patient experience: The consumerization of healthcare plays a huge role in the current market. Patients are no longer “patients.” Instead, they are “consumers,” looking for the best overall value and not accepting anything less. Home healthcare providers are under intense pressure to win these consumers over before their competition does.
- Technology that goes beyond compliance: Today’s home healthcare providers need technology that supports patient and business outcomes, not just systems that ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
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IT Challenges in Home Healthcare
When it comes to mobile devices in home healthcare, there are plenty of IT challenges to overcome:
- Security: Home healthcare providers need to collect data from mobile devices, but they also need to keep that data safe and secure. Consider the fact that more large healthcare data breaches were reported in 2020 than in any other year since 2009 (when the HITECH Act was signed into law, requiring healthcare data breaches to be published online).
- Interoperability: For providers to successfully communicate with one another across different systems is crucial, but not all providers have reached the point where they can say they’re sharing data in a way that improves patient care. Interoperability is a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity—close to 75% of health systems and physician groups said they’d send more referrals to post-acute care providers that enable greater electronic data access.
- Integration costs and challenges: It’s no secret that implementing new mobile technology in healthcare can be difficult and costly. Home healthcare providers still struggle to achieve full adoption of technologies and full integration with other processes.
- User behavior: Many healthcare workers don’t fully embrace new technologies provided to them. This is a change management issue that can lead to incomplete or low-quality data, plus wasted time and money.
- Data transparency: In order for home health data collection to be successful, everyone needs to understand why that data is required and how it will be used. Data for data’s sake is useless for your business.
- Home health data transitions: When a care team needs to be in tight coordination for a patient, transitions need to be seamless and automatic, allowing each caregiver access to all records without wasting time calling or emailing for updates.
How Data Translates to KPIs in Home Healthcare
Most employees and managers have a handful of KPIs that they are personally responsible for, but a great deal of data is required to generate those metrics. Managers, in particular, are frequently called upon to explain the “numbers” behind the KPIs they report. Those “numbers” are often the product of the data points listed here:
- Mileage and travel reimbursements: These metrics contribute to cost of care delivered. How much are you spending on travel reimbursements for your mobile caregivers? How are you verifying that what they report is correct?
- Check-in and check-out times: Time spent with each patient is a measure of efficiency and should be captured with precision. How long is your provider spending at each appointment? How do you know?
- Billable time: The most important data point for calculating cost of care delivered is billable hours for home caregivers. Unfortunately, self-reported data from workers is not always reliable. Can you trust the data you have from caregivers on the go?
- Services provided, and requested, on-site: Tracking the totality of what is provided and requested during a care visit is essential for accurate billing and to understand where your business has the most opportunity to grow. Can you expand your offerings?
- Patient signatures: Every healthcare provider knows they need to have the right patient paperwork completed, but patients and insurance companies still regularly contest claims. Capturing signatures at the time of care delivery can help prevent or navigate contested claims, among other scenarios.
- Photos: Capturing photos during an appointment has several important benefits, including risk reduction, confirmation of care provided, concerning patient developments, and verification of employee arrivals. Do you know how to capture photographs with patients on-site without risking HIPAA violations?
- Incidents and escalations: Especially in home healthcare, where care is delivered outside of a more controlled hospital setting, incidents can occur. When they do, you need to capture as much detail as possible immediately to reduce risk and ensure patients get the follow-up care they need. Relying on real-time home health data instead of a caregiver’s memories or paperwork can help more accurately capture the events leading up to sensitive moments.
Patient Outcome KPIs to Measure in Home Healthcare
As the home healthcare industry makes the switch from patient to consumer, it’s more important than ever to add patient outcome KPIs to the data you collect. Consider measuring these top seven outcomes:
- Effectiveness of treatment: Healthcare is constantly changing, so what was a standard practice a few years ago may be outdated today. The effectiveness of treatment KPI measures your ability to comply with current best practices and achieve measurable improvement in the patient’s health.
- Patient-reported wellness: The end goal in every home healthcare situation is to help the patient feel better. Is the current quality of care meeting the patient’s expectations? What about patient engagement? Today’s patients want to be involved in the healthcare decision-making process, and mhealth tools can help them become more involved in their care to achieve better outcomes.
- Overall patient experience: Is the patient receiving adequate care, timely appointments, and education to manage their condition on their own when necessary? Are their expectations and needs being met? The “Amazon Effect” is changing the way patients think about healthcare; they expect their experience to be as seamless as their last great customer service interaction—even if it was outside the realm of healthcare.
- Safety of care: Is your company using a tool to track incident reports such as injury, regression toward goals, medication errors, declining mental state, or other quality measures? Can you pass that information on to others on the patient’s healthcare team? Your technology needs to include a way to quickly and securely update everyone involved about any changes and safety concerns.
- Timeliness of care: An aging population, combined with the lack of affordable nursing homes, means the home health industry is growing rapidly. It’s imperative that your home healthcare scheduling platform can adjust and accommodate various long-term care schedules.
- Hospital admission/readmission rate: Is the care your company provides sufficient to keep the patient at home, safe, and comfortable? Does your current home healthcare technology include risk management software, or other ways to reduce readmission rates?
- Preventive measures: The old adage says, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Is your system set up to not only treat, but prevent? For example: If a patient is immunocompromised, are you able to communicate that to your home healthcare providers and take measures to reduce the risks associated with their condition?
Bridging the Gap: Compliance vs. Patient-Driven Systems
When it comes to mobile healthcare, there’s no room for siloed systems.
While complete interoperability isn’t always possible for every provider, it is crucial that providers have the means to take care of every patient on an individual basis, while still focusing on driving business as a whole.
Most IT and EHR systems focus strictly on compliance, but there’s more to mobile healthcare than that. Data driven by business and patient outcomes is also essential to monitoring and improving your healthcare operations. Keeping up with new capabilities and tools in all aspects of healthcare is crucial for improving patient engagement and delivering care that is successful today and in the future.
Enterprise Health Cloud Systems Lead the Way
Enterprise health cloud (EHC) systems have the ability to meet compliance standards while still improving the quality of patient care. Taking home health data from electronic health records (EHRs), these systems combine to provide detailed analytics that engage consumers and provide high-level patient insights.
The Bottom Line in mHealth Data
While compliance used to be the “be-all and end-all” of mobile technology in healthcare, it’s not enough anymore. Today’s providers need to balance compliance and regulatory requirements with the need for actionable, high-quality data. This forward-looking approach to the patient experience will set your company above the rest!
*This article was originally posted in August 2018. The updated version was published in June 2021.