by Kristen Duell
We are living in uncertain times, moreso than ever for those of us in the health care sector. Everyone feels the uncertainty. Constant change has placed additional strain on an already stretched system. Not only are we looking at an aging population, but we are also seeing a rise in specialized outpatient care. Dwindling payor reimbursements bundled with increased costs are making things more difficult than ever.
CEOs and other heads of provider organizations I’ve spoken to are seeking tools and partners to navigate the change and uncertainty. However, it’s difficult to keep maintaining the desired level of care in the face of increased demand and dwindling resources. Agency leaders need to have split vision, with one eye on making the day-to-day routines manageable, and the other eye firmly fixed on what’s coming next.
It’s a sentiment that runs all through the medical community. So while technology companies boast of streamlining post-acute patient management and helping agencies maintain the highest standard of patient care, the overall effect is often less than stellar. Good software solutions should enable you to do great work. Bad software feels cumbersome, hinders effectiveness, frustrates clinicians, and simply makes things worse.
Bad software is often the result of a focus on the short-term. It’s like layering one Band-Aid on top of another, and that’s where the harm begins. All of us in this industry have seen an example of a partner cutting corners due to these shifts in care. This is when the agency realizes they are shackled to a technology vendor who can’t handle their whole scope of business. It’s difficult to even remember what the vision for improvement was. Less paperwork? Improved compliance? Ease of use? Best in class? Instead, there is a technology Frankenstein running amok, actually doing harm by putting constraints on the organization instead of delivering on the hope of interoperability.
Post-acute agencies need the kind of solution that’s equipped to meet both current and future needs. Many solutions today are built on old technology, but today’s challenges call for today’s innovations. Because new needs are guaranteed to arise, good technology can anticipate the trends, handle diversification, and act as a strategic partner. Good software needs to be designed to focus on outcomes, for the business, for the staff and for the patient. It needs to do more than simply live up to the “do no harm” requirement, it needs to form a system that will help the post-acute agency actually thrive.
It sounds almost silly to say, but the most important aspect of health care is surely CARE. After all, it’s called health CARE and not health PROFIT or health EFFICIENCY for a reason. At the end of the day, patient well-being is of paramount importance. But when technology creates more problems than it solves, when identifying and prioritizing action items is an action item in itself, there’s no time or resources left to improve the care it provides. Who suffers in this equation?
Why hasn’t technology evolved alongside the industry? Simply put, it’s because software developers are software developers; most are focused on technology instead of the process that supports the care workflow. A common scenario today is for a software development company (or even an agency) to develop a solution to manage and automate their current problems. But when new problems arise, a new niche product has to be tacked on. Here comes Frankenstein again. Your patients and your clinicians deserve tools that enable care, not terrorize it.
It starts by aligning technology with the agency’s development strategy. In the past, some agencies have been drawn to big names rather than big performance. Don’t forget that Frankenstein may well be lurking behind that big-name brand. Wasn’t it the big-name brand that led everyone down the wrong path to begin with? Wasn’t it the big-name brand that began to stitch the monster together?
It’s more important than ever to choose a software partner that’s up to the challenge. Strategies and diversification are necessary for an agency’s survival and growth, yet the market is saturated with vendors who simply cannot provide technology that can deal with these critically important shifts. A good technology partner must offer a long-term solution that aligns with the strategic development of the agency, and be fully equipped to meet any and all challenges as they appear.
Technology must be a help, not a hindrance. Software must create efficiencies, not confusion. With all this upheaval, the last thing that the provider organization needs is more complexity, greater risk, lower efficiency, and reduced insight into performance. Like medical professionals themselves, technology must do no harm. Instead of Frankenstein’s monster, the post-acute agency needs a host of busy beavers, all working together to pick up the slack, bridge the gaps, create the efficiencies, and deliver real insights that will allow the agency to do its job, thrive and achieve new levels of success.
Kristen Duell is Vice President of Sales & Marketing with KanTime Healthcare Software. With a background in healthcare information technology, she has been highly successful as a business consulting professional focusing on the needs of post-acute healthcare agencies nationwide. Her article first appeared in LinkedIn on 6/7/18. Reprinted by permission.