- The pandemic has drawn attention to the importance of post-acute care (PAC)—and created new pressures for PAC teams.
- Effective collaboration can help coordinate care delivery, reduce readmissions, improve efficiencies, and address provider burnout
- Post-acute care will continue to gain importance with an aging American population, termed the “silver tsunami.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of high-quality post-acute care (PAC). Skilled nursing facilities, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, and long-term care hospitals have been under heightened pressure to prevent infections. And home health and hospice agencies have seen new demands for their services.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has restricted goals-of-care conversations with patients, families, and caregivers. Overburdened health systems, social distancing requirements, and declining health of COVID-19 patients have all limited provider-patient interactions.
In this climate, effective collaboration within post-acute care teams is more vital than ever. Streamlining provider communication can directly improve patient outcomes by:
Coordinating post-acute care delivery
Patient transitions from acute care are often fraught with communication challenges, from conflicting medical records to lack of clarity on the care plan. Meanwhile, post-acute care providers use a mix of communication technologies, from cell phones to email and pagers, which can further complicate care delivery.
Internal alignment can go a long way toward resolving these challenges. Adopting a clinical collaboration platform allows providers to consolidate communication and use role-based messaging to consult with on-call colleagues in real time. Physicians, nurses, and healthcare administrators can all benefit from accessing a single source of truth and reaching the right person at the right time.
Reducing hospital readmissions
Under the Affordable Care Act, acute care systems have a stronger incentive to align with post-acute care providers to reduce hospital length of stay and improve value-based care.
But according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, hospital readmission from PAC facilities is both common and associated with a high mortality rate. The study notes: “Readmission risk factors may signify inadequate transitional care processes or a mismatch between patient needs and PAC resources.”
While this issue is complex, fragmented communication among post-acute care teams poses a major challenge. Patients with comorbid conditions often require interdisciplinary care teams. But often, each specialist prefers different communication methods, such as HIPAA-compliant texting. Clinical teams spend time monitoring and responding to multiple channels, which pulls their focus from providing patient care.
Improving efficiencies in post-acute care
According to a study published in Health Affairs, “Spending on postacute care after hospitalization exceeds $60 billion per year in Medicare alone. It is growing at a faster rate than inpatient spending, may exceed spending on the acute hospitalization itself, and is the primary predictor of differences in overall episode costs.”
Meanwhile, about 25 percent of healthcare spending is considered waste, according to a JAMA analysis. Improving provider workflows and communication can minimize unneeded procedures, in turn reducing unnecessary healthcare spending.
Addressing post-acute care provider burnout
Provider burnout has hit a new peak during the pandemic, particularly in sectors serving highly vulnerable patient populations, such as post-acute care. Post-acute settings can mitigate some of these effects by minimizing providers’ nonclinical workload.
Providers can also suffer sensory overload from multiple communication and patient alert systems. Adopting a clinical collaboration platform can reduce the cognitive burden and sense of overwhelm by giving providers a single clearinghouse for all team-based communication.
Bringing it all together
Post-acute care will continue to gain importance with an aging American population, termed the “silver tsunami.” The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2030, older people will outnumber children for the first time in history—and older patients are the primary recipients of post-acute care.
Effective post-acute care is essential to reducing unnecessary hospital readmissions and improving patient outcomes. But the providers delivering this care need more support—including streamlined workflow and communication channels that allow them to focus on caring for vulnerable patients.