Welcoming LTC’s technology future: Bring it on

This will be a combo offering: My introductory blog as a member of the Long-Term Living magazine editorial staff, and some thoughts about the 8th annual AHIMA Long-Term and Post-Acute Care Health IT Summit (LTPAC HIT), held June 18-19 in Baltimore.

I’ve spent most of my journalism career reporting on healthcare IT systems and applications designed for hospitals or physician group practices. So I arrived in Baltimore prepared to be overwhelmed by the complex world of long-term and post-acute care, so different from the hospital-based settings I’d covered in the past.

I immediately discovered a whole set of new acronyms to memorize: MU, PU, COT, ADL and RAI, to name a few.

But, it also struck me how many session topics and attendee issues seemed familiar.

Provider organizations are still trying to care for their populations under intense budget constraints and the regulatory ticking clocks.

Caregivers are still trying hard to deliver best-practice care to their residents, while being faced with changing documentation requirements amid their already complex workflows and high stress levels.

Everyone’s talking about “transitions of care” and about what technology and additional data sources will be needed to make that actually happen.

Meanwhile, plenty of valuable data is still stuck in silos—Data that works fine for care-site A, but not necessarily for B or C…  Or, when all that additional data may end up back at care-site A later?

Interoperability is rears its head in all sides of the data discussion: What data do we capture, what format should it be in, how do we exchange data between entities, and how can we make better use of the data we share?

Even HIT vendors, who (until recently) have tended to ignore the LTPAC industry, are seeing the needs and opportunities within that space—but they’re stuck waiting for standards. (P.S. to Vendors: Remember when we used to call LTPAC a “niche industry”? I do…)

I started writing for our sister-publication, Healthcare Informatics, in 1996—the year HIPAA was born. Back then, it took most hospitals at least two years to realize that the HIPAA mandates were “real” and were eventually going to change the entire way they did business. Resisting change is just human nature, I suppose.

But next year, 3 million people are expected to reach age 65. AARP estimates that about 10,000 people will reach age 65 every day until 2029 or so. No one can afford to ignore such powerful statistics, or their upcoming impact on the LTPAC communities.

Faced with a burgeoning industry and based on the timetables for Meaningful Use and other initiatives, LTPAC can’t afford the luxury of spending another two years “getting used to the idea.”

Many speakers at this week’s LTPAC Summit urged attendees to take home similar messages and to spread the word among administrators at their own organizations: Meaningful Use is here, and its stages will continue to roll out.  No one can afford to remain unaware of what’s coming down the road.  And, 2014 (the implementation date for Meaningful Use Stage 2) is closer than it appears in the rear-view mirror.

I came home from the LTPAC summit with tired feet and a brain packed with the breaking trends and complex issues involved in LTPAC’s future. But for now, I think I could use a COT or a RUG (even a RAC would do)… and an ice-cold COLA.

Topics: Executive Leadership , Technology & IT