Post-acute care providers: digitize, solve interoperability, get more referrals

There’s one thing we know about healthcare for sure: accurate and timely data is crucial. For post-acute care (PAC) providers in particular, the ability to quickly, easily, and safely receive and exchange data is key to their business. But a lack of referral uniformity–with referrals arriving through a mix of electronic and paper sources–makes comprehensive digitization and interoperability seem like a far-off notion. Worse yet, missing or incomplete data negatively impacts patient care as well as PAC providers’ income by stalling day-to-day operations.

The digitization and interoperability challenge for PAC providers

PAC providers play a crucial role in healthcare, assisting patients as they transition from acute care facilities to their homes or other healthcare settings. However, post-acute care providers have been slow in adopting electronic health record (EHR) systems and achieving seamless interoperability compared to other ambulatory care partners. A JAMA study revealed that only half of PAC providers can receive and access electronic patient data. Most of these providers still rely on antiquated methods such as fax and phone to send and receive referrals, hindering efficient data exchange and causing a digital traffic jam.

This paper-to-digital gap in medical records has a substantial impact on their business, given that their operations are predominantly referral-based. Alarmingly, a staggering 99% of referring providers have expressed their willingness to switch to PAC providers who can accept electronic referrals, underlining the urgency to bridge this interoperability divide.

The costs of the paper-to-electronic gap for UCSF Health

The former scenario at UCSF Health in San Francisco aptly illustrates the negative impacts of health information exchange that relies heavily on faxed documents: Although they’d boosted their receipt of electronic referrals, UCSF Health still received nearly half of their annual referrals via fax. Upon receipt, referral coordinators had to painstakingly type the faxed information into UCSF’s EHR system, an arduous 13-screen process.

Each referral coordinator manually processed approximately 12 referrals per day in this manner, demanding roughly 57 full-time equivalents (FTEs) solely for processing faxed referrals across the organization. With 43% of specialty referrals taking more than five days to schedule, UCSF Health risked delays in patient care and potentially compromising patient outcomes.

Ease financial stresses and workforce scarcities

According to the 2023 Future Health Index, nearly all healthcare leaders face financial hurdles. The push to do more with less is growing, with 33% of surveyed healthcare leaders looking to streamline administrative tasks. Investments in digital technology have become a key strategy to alleviate the strain on staff and provide predictive insights to support clinical decisions. Likewise, the next generation of healthcare professionals are enthusiastic about adopting new digital technologies, considering them a pivotal factor when choosing where to work.

As healthcare leaders recognize the impact of workforce shortages, they are rethinking the traditional model of care delivery. More than half of these leaders are already using or planning to use digital health technology solutions to mitigate the effects of workforce shortages—focusing on out-of-hospital settings, enabling flexible resource allocation and access to critical information from any location.

Solving interoperability challenges with AI & HI

Solutions are only as good as their capabilities. In data processing, if a solution can’t account for both digital and paper-based information, then your company, especially your team members, will constantly play catch up.

Technology, like OCR and AI, can rapidly classify documents and process data, but it has its limitations when a document image or its contents aren’t clear. These technologies may struggle when it comes to reading a poor quality fax or a low-resolution image from a phone. Also, handwriting or lines and background images can result in an exception that needs to be handled manually. That’s where human intelligence (HI) is still indispensable. Technology works to classify and extract data rapidly, while human contributors can validate what AI has captured and complete the data AI can’t understand.

Using AI and HI, ScaleHub’s HIPAA-compliant collective intelligence solution can streamline PAC data processing for all referrals and submissions quickly, securely, and accurately. Most importantly, it can help to swiftly assemble complete patient records, which providers value. That leads to more efficient processes and, most importantly, a better patient care journey.

By embracing digital health technology, the healthcare industry can create a future where resources are optimally utilized, and patient care can be seamlessly coordinated across all settings.
Through collective intelligence, ScaleHub is helping PAC providers pave the way for a more connected, efficient, secure and patient-centric healthcare ecosystem. What can it do for you?

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See how ScaleHub is solving longstanding healthcare challenges by making >99% patient data safely available in as little as an hour. Watch this short video to learn how or contact us to get more insights from one of our experts.

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