Today’s hospice agencies have many options to leverage technology to assist communication, create new efficiencies, and improve responsiveness to patient and family needs. Clinicians can communicate instantly, instead of making phone calls that sit in voice mailboxes for hours or days. Plus, telemedicine technology allows clinicians to speak virtually with specialists and patients while taking precautions in the age of COVID-19.
Has your hospice agency considered the benefits of adding new technology? Following are three potential ways adding new technology could benefit your organization.
1. Supports patient-centered care. At first glance, improvements in technology can seem to take away from hospice providers’ patient-centered ethos. We are used to relating face-to-face and eye-to-eye, yet now we are interfacing more and more with computer screens and smartphones. Hospice agencies tend to attract “people” people, and technology can prove a headache for many. But just think about how hard it would be to help hospice patients today – especially in the age of COVID – without cell phones, laptops, tables, and e-signing of medical orders. If any of your hospice staff members are feeling frustrated with the demands of technology, it may help to think about how the next person on their team will be viewing the data they are entering, and how it will help their patients receive more well-rounded, responsive care.
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2. Enables hospice professionals to stay connected to their patients during challenging times like a pandemic.
While telehealth has already been a huge asset to many hospice and palliative care providers for patients in rural and remote areas, this technology has now come front-and-center as a workaround for the current pandemic crisis. Because the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recognized the need to adjust requirements to provide physicians and other clinicians the flexibility they need to provide care during COVID, hospice providers can now use telecommunications technology to assist those receiving routine home care.
According to the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC), fully 61% of hospice agencies responding to a recent survey said they had admitted patients with COVID-19 to their hospice service.1 According to NAHC, roughly 98% of hospice care is delivered in a patient’s home.2 Since there is limited control over potential exposure, NAHC has asked CMS to consider permanent changes to Medicare policies allowing use of telehealth in hospice care.3 (Current changes have been under a temporary basis.) President Trump on Aug. 3, signed a new Executive Order to further expand access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in rural communities.
The current use of telehealth has made a difference to 62% of respondents in the survey, and 82% reported that they are utilizing two-way audio-visual communications currently.4 Prior to the emergency declaration, about 13,000 Medicare beneficiaries accessed telemedicine services during a typical week. As of the last week of April, that number had expanded to nearly 1.7 million people.5
3. Allows hospice professionals to spend more time with their patients and less time on paperwork. In some cases, upgrading your technology can allow your staff to spend more time with patients. For example, switching to an EHR system that is created specifically for hospices – and moving away from one that is retrofitted from home health software – can save your clinicians time by avoiding non-hospice questions, unnecessary fields or other workarounds. A hospice-specific system provides instant insight into the patient’s conditions through centralized views, dashboards and graphs, offering another layer of care. This allows hospice staff to get a quick up-to-date picture of each patient so they can deliver the right care at the right time.
Allow technology to make your job easier…
Optima Hospice is an EHR software solution, purpose-built just for hospices, that enables staff to spend more time with patients by streamlining referrals, patient admissions, scheduling, compliance requirements and so much more.
1. National Association of Home Care & Hospice, “Hospice in the Time of COVID-19: Findings from the NAHC National Survey,” May 27, 2020
2. Actual letter: https://www.nahc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Hon-Seems-Verma-Hospice-Use-of-Telecomunications-FINAL-1.pdf
3. National Association of Home Care & Hospice, “NAHC Urges Permanent Flexibilities Under Medicare for use of Technology During Hospice Delivery,” May 18, 2020 https://www.nahc.org/2020/05/18/nahc-urges-permanent-flexibilities-under-medicare-for-use-of-technology-in-hospice-care-delivery/
4. National Association of Home Care & Hospice, “Hospice in the Time of COVID-19: Findings from the NAHC National Survey,” May 27, 2020
5. Hospice News, “CMS to Make Permanent COVID-19 Telehealth Rules, Hospice Role Uncertain,” August 3, 2020 https://hospicenews.com/2020/08/03/cms-to-make-permanent-covid-19-telehealth-rules/