Providers large and small feel challenges of interoperability

There were two clear themes at HIMSS this year: interoperability and reducing readmissions. Acute and post-acute providers are busy putting frameworks into place to make sure they’re preparing for these challenges.

What was everyone talking about at HIMSS this year?

For me, it came down to two key things: Interoperability was definitely a strong theme. It’s been talked about a lot in the past, but this year you could see it loud and clear—from the keynote, to the various sessions, to walking the exhibitor floor.

Sitting in on a post-acute roundtable, I heard clear frustration from SNFs and home health agencies about a lack of interoperability and the challenges of getting patients’ medical records during the intake process. You could really feel the strong emotions in the room as these providers told their stories.

That relates to the second big theme I saw, which was the focus on reducing readmissions. Statistics show that one-fifth of Medicare patients are readmitted within 30 days of discharge from the hospital, so the industry is working very hard to ensure quality along the entire healthcare continuum. Again, this reinforces the need for strong communication between hospitals and post-acute providers.

What actions can post-acute organizations take right now to adapt to this climate? 

To do their part to reduce readmissions, hospitals want to be sure they’re referring patients to high quality post-acute providers. This is most easily demonstrated with good data. If a SNF or a home health provider can point to high star ratings and other data points that show high quality care, a hospital can feel more secure in that referral relationship. And star ratings are obviously used by patients and their caretakers as well when selecting providers. Therefore, now is the time for post-acute organizations to ensure they’re collecting the data they need to be, and analyzing that data to spot opportunities for improvement.

Some people associate the HIMSS Conference only with large healthcare providers with complex IT platforms. What can smaller providers take away from a meeting like this?

Many of the same industry challenges will apply regardless of a provider’s size. Clearly, problems like interoperability and hospital readmissions can affect an organization no matter what its bed count is. So every organization can look at what’s being discussed at HIMSS and then determine how it will affect them at their individual scale.

With those challenges in mind, organizations need to then consider their technology needs. I think one of the best things small and mid-sized providers can do is look at SaaS-based IT applications. With a SaaS solution, you can leave the complex updates and infrastructure to your vendor—all your organization needs is an internet connection and a browser. So HIMSS is still a great meeting for healthcare organizations of any size to stay in touch with industry-wide challenges and learn about what’s coming in the future. Then, providers can consider their individual scale as they’re evaluating tools to help them meet those challenges.