New Technologies for Home Healthcare

New Technologies for Home Healthcare

Attention: open in a new window. PDF | Print | E-mail

Implementing HIT in the Home Healthcare Setting:

As we discussed in a recent article on telemedicine, advances in information technology can also benefit the home health services industry. For patients who want access to physicians and services, but have limited access due to physical or geographic restraints, home health care offers a convenient alternative to face-to-face visits. Home health can also benefit individuals recovering from surgery, or even those with mental or physical disabilities.

By leveraging the Internet and the Cloud, as well as hand-held devices such as tablets and smartphones, home health agencies and other health care providers can expand patient reach while increasing access to patient information. According to HIT Consultant, do-it-yourself healthcare and mobile applications are one of the top 10 trends to watch in the health industry this year, and offer many benefits to both patients and institutions. However, the home health industry has many things to consider on the road to integrating healthcare information technology (HIT).

Implementing HIT in the home care environment:

From data collection and transmission to analysis and decision support, there are many ways that the home care environment can begin to adopt HIT, including:

  • Active monitoring and management (telemonitoring systems for asthma, diabetes, heart and pulmonary conditions)
  • Telehealth applications for home-based disease management (linking patients and their families to their health care providers)
  • Web-based communities for home care patients (linking patients and their families to health care providers, peers, and the community)
  • Personal health records (enabling patients to record and store their personal health information)
  • Disease management (reporting symptoms and any side-effects of medications to share with physicians)

Benefits of HIT for home-based health care:

The use of HIT in the home setting helps:

  • Support interactions and exchanges between the patient and physician without requiring a physical presence
  • Adequately monitor a patient’s status in-between normal visits
  • Create a personal health record for patients, allowing them to become more involved in managing their own health
  • Reduce unnecessary admissions to long-term institutional care facilities
  • Prompt physician intervention when needed
  • Decrease incidences of complications, readmissions and hospitalizations
  • Encourage greater population health through trends analysis

Considerations for Home Health Care Technologies:

When an institution or home health agency is considering implementing HIT, it should consider the following issues fully as it relates to the practice:

Privacy and Confidentiality: Because remote monitoring devices and applications will use the Internet and other electronic means to transmit clinical data, the institution needs to ensure that all individual health information can be protected during transmission. Many of the new applications, including public health record tools, are not currently covered by HIPAA regulations.

Safety and Usability: IT applications in the home setting must be designed for usability, with a large portion of its users being elderly or having limited functionality. For those applications that require skill in operating correctly, patients, families and caregivers must be properly trained to use the devices. Additionally, the physician’s office should be equipped to conduct video consultations with the patient, as well as to properly receive collected data sets.

Data Transmission and Interoperability: The data collected from home monitoring devices and Internet applications should at a minimum link to a hospital’s EMR and ideally also link to a state-wide health information exchange (HIE) in order for the data to reach a wide network of institutions, physicians and specialists, including long-term care and rehab facilities. Common standards, including clinical, vocabulary, messages and workflow, must make proper use of the data for disease and patient management. Interoperability would also encourage physician referrals to home health agencies using HIT within the system.

Economic Impact: Institutions must evaluate the cost of at-home care through the use of technologies versus the cost of a face-to-face visit. They must also consider IT delivery, training and maintenance of any devices used.

Policy and Considerations: Issues of cost and reimbursement come into play when using technology within the home care setting. Who administers the IT device within the home (patient, caregiver or home care aide) could potentially impact eligibility criteria for insurance coverage and reimbursement, as well as determine which devices are approved for use. CMS currently offers reimbursement for doctor videoconferencing to the home as well as remote monitoring, and continues to encourage its use. CMS has also encouraged home health providers to develop health IT systems that support interoperability and exchange with other hospital systems and providers. AS CMS is moving away from reimbursement for services to payments for outcomes, these policies will continue to affect HIT solutions available in the home health setting.

The Future of Home Healthcare:

HIT can enhance and even redesign the home care practice in the future. By empowering patients to take a more active role in their health management, as well as giving physicians greater access to patient information in the home setting, HIT can also improve the quality and overall delivery of patient care, while positively impacting an institution’s bottom line. The key to success for home health agencies is to use HIT that integrates with an EHR, and has the capability to share interoperable information through a healthcare information exchange (HIE).

If your organization is considering implementing HIT in the home care setting, start by assessing your current goals, readiness and infrastructure before working with specific technologies or vendors. An IT integrator like CoreTech can help you understand the marketplace and the ramifications of adopting specific HIT solutions, as well as help you assimilate the new technologies into your current EHR system.