Healthcare systems can improve patient outcomes while reducing costs and spending variations by developing an effective post-acute care network, according to two recent reports.
A report from The Institute of Medicine and a Deloitte survey both indicate that—in order to succeed in value-based care—health systems need to establish a trusted, narrow network of high-quality, post-acute care partners.
Not establishing this trusted network can be extremely costly to healthcare systems. An example from the survey indicated that the average Medicare length-of-stay at a top-performing skilled nursing facility (SNF) is fewer than 24 days. On the other hand, a low-performing SNF averages over 34 days. The cost difference between these two length-of-stays is $4,000 per admission.
However, it’s not just length of stay that providers need to take into consideration when evaluating post-acute providers. That is according to Saqib Akhter, the CEO of Post-Acute Analytics, a company that helps health systems monitor their patients in real time once they are discharged from the hospital.
“Systems that are taking higher acuity, more complex patients, such as those that have had a stroke or have multiple comorbidities, are going to have different outcomes than those that are primarily doing rehab for orthopedic patients. So, there is a need to risk adjust in order for there to be an apples-to-apples comparison. Otherwise, what happens is that the facilities that are taking high-risk, high-acuity patients are always going to look worse.”
The most effective way for health systems to evaluate providers and establish a post-acute network is through a data-driven approach.
Historically, however, post-acute care data has been limited or unavailable. Medicare star ratings provide some post-acute care data, but that information is usually dated and is not specific to a health system or payer.
“Most health systems don’t have a way to get the post-acute data they need,” said Akhter. “Post-acute providers use many different electronic medical records. In order to access all of this information, a health system would need technology that is custom to each different type of system, and then need the infrastructure to analyze the data from these post-acute providers. Or alternatively, health systems have to rely on self-reported data that is manually inputted.
“That’s one of the main roadblocks we designed our solution to overcome. We built all of the adaptors or integrations to pull data from any post-acute provider and analyze this raw data to deliver very easy-to-use scorecards that measure the performance of post acute providers. There is no data entry, period.”
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Partnering with post-acute care facilities
Another aspect that healthcare systems need to determine when developing a post-acute care strategy is whether to own or partner with post-acute care organizations.
Most healthcare systems decide to partner with post-acute care facilities because partnerships are usually more affordable and faster to implement. However, whether partnered or owned, healthcare systems still need to communicate with post-acute providers throughout the continuum of care.
“From the hospital to the SNF, LTAC, IRF to home health, there is a need to look at patient outcomes on a risk-adjusted basis in real time,” said Akhter. “We provide technology that enables that, regardless of whether you own post-acute facilities or are partnering with third-party providers.
“Also, health systems that own post-acute providers still see a significant number of patients go to other providers for a number of reasons: location, patient preference, etc. Therefore, there remains a need to connect to third-party post-acute providers whether a health system owns it or not.”
Better outcomes, lower cost
There are many opportunities to save money and improve quality through better management of post-acute care, and in value-based care systems establishing a trusted post-acute network is essential to success.
“Currently, health systems don’t have a very good way of knowing which post-acute systems are doing a good job taking care of their patients and those that are not,” said Akhter. “It is important to have a solution that fits where a health system is in the journey to having a post-acute strategy. So, we have multiple modules that are turnkey and can be up and running in eight to 10 weeks. Our solutions are fully automated because folks in healthcare don’t have time to duplicate data entry and they need information that is readily available and actionable. As a result of the information we deliver, healthcare systems are going to get better outcomes for their post-acute patients because they are using post- acute providers that are high performers on quality and cost.”