Thanks to the Affordable Care Act and new care delivery models, provider compensation is increasingly being tied to quality outcomes and cost-effective care. To achieve quality and cost objectives, patient care must be well-coordinated in order to accelerate the delivery of care, reduce wasteful duplicate testing, and minimize the risks and costs associated with missed or delayed diagnosis, medication errors and hospital readmissions.

To effectively and efficiently coordinate care, providers need access to a patient’s complete health record, including details on medications, previous test results and medical history. Initiatives such as the Meaningful Use program and the Direct Project initiative seek to promote the fast and secure exchange of clinical patient information.

 

However, many organizations have yet to adopt new technologies to facilitate the electronic exchange of health data. In many cases, perceived high implementation costs are to blame. More commonly, the biggest barrier is provider unwillingness to disrupt existing workflows in favor of new processes.

Provider resistance to change

Healthcare has tended to lag behind other industries in adopting new technologies. In hospitals, clinicians have been slow to replace pagers with more advanced communication tools that leverage smartphones and Wi-Fi. Some physicians have been reluctant to give up dictation – or even handwriting – for documenting patient encounters.

Faxing is another “older” technology that continues to thrive in healthcare. A 2015 IDC Analyst Group survey found that faxing remained a predominant communication method for more than 80 percent of providers for patient information exchange. Despite the availability of newer, more efficient solutions to share patient health information, the popularity of faxing persists.

Upgrading technology can be expensive. However, arguably the primary reason providers continue to fax, dictate and carry beepers is because they are reticent to take on potentially disruptive changes to longstanding workflows.

Bridging technology gaps

Despite cost and workflow concerns, most healthcare organizations recognize the potential benefits of newer technologies. To advance their overall technology objectives, administrators oftentimes develop workarounds to overcome various roadblocks. Consider, for example, a practice that is implementing an EMR, but has a physician unwilling or unable to document at the point of care. To achieve the practice’s overarching goal for paperless charts, the practice might utilize a scribe to document in the EMR on the physician’s behalf.

Similarly, many organizations want to replace faxing with newer, more efficient methods of document sharing. They are unable to totally eliminate faxing, however, because some healthcare stakeholders are unable to securely send or receive patient information by any other method.

To make document sharing more efficient, a more progressive provider might replace older-style fax machines with electronic faxing technologies that offer EMR integration and paperless workflows, as well as OCR and barcoding technologies to automatically route documents to the proper destination. Although electronic faxing solutions may be considered less efficient than other advanced electronic data sharing methods, they do satisfy a provider’s need to securely exchange documents with other caregivers.

Direct messaging to connect caregivers

Direct messaging is an increasingly popular alternative for the secure exchange of clinical patient information. Direct is fast and efficient, and provides strong security and protection of patient health information. It can improve care coordination – and the delivery of quality and cost-effective care – by enabling efficient and secure communication.

 

Yet the success of Direct depends on widespread adoption within a community. Healthcare organizations that adopt Direct can only send Direct messages to providers that have also implemented Direct. Otherwise, they must resort to fax.

Of course, managing two separate messaging methods is inefficient and time consuming, and may lead some providers to abandon the use of Direct because of productivity concerns. Widespread adoption will struggle without solutions that bridge the current technology gap and enable providers to use a single workflow to transmit documents.

For example, most EMRs have incorporated basic faxing capabilities into workflows, enabling a provider to quickly fax a chart note, test result or other document to another organization. To advance the use of Direct, providers need technologies that work in the background to route documents via Direct if possible, or, by fax if receiving providers have no known Direct address. Such solutions preserve existing provider workflows without requiring alternate methods for Direct messaging. As with other outdated processes that remain popular in healthcare, providers gain a workaround that leverages secure and efficient messaging in support of their organizations’ overall care coordination goals while moving in the desired direction.

New care delivery models require well-coordinated care between providers. To achieve clinical and financial objectives, providers must embrace more efficient technologies – or seek alternate solutions that bridge existing technology gaps.

(This article appears courtesy of our sister publication, Health Data Management)

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