Mar 29 2018
Patient-Centered Care

Why Long-Term Care Needs Tech Innovation, Too

By 2030, all baby boomers will be 65 or older; but is technology in the long-term care industry keeping pace with growing demand?

While discussions about technology’s role in the long-term and post-acute care space are gaining momentum, many organizations providing that care admit that they’re not prepared to use innovative tools as part of a value-based strategy, according to a report published last fall by Black Book Research.

Just 3 percent of inpatient long-term care providers surveyed say they deploy data analytics technology with a goal of cutting unnecessary hospital readmissions and lowering care costs.

“Most long-term care organizations are still stuck in a volume-based mindset,” says Doug Brown, Black Book Research’s managing partner, in a press release accompanying the report. “Integrating evidence-based practices through clinical operations can control rising costs, reduce duplication and other inefficiencies, and position the business to be a successful player in the reforming post-acute continuum.”

What’s more, the meaningful communication and interoperability necessary to fuel innovation in long-term care are still a long way out for most facilities.

In fact, 94 percent of care managers surveyed said that hospitals still send complex patients with the highest morbidity rates to skilled nursing facilities with nearly no communication. And long-term care administrators surveyed said that nearly 90 percent of their facilities aren’t exchanging health information electronically with referring provider organizations, including hospitals, physicians and home health providers.

“Long-term care facilities are still excluded from operating in a deeply connected care continuum due to limited resources and communication channels,” said Brown, who called the interoperability problem an “expensive” one “as hospitals become responsible financially for long-term outcomes and preventable patient readmissions.”

The Outlook for Senior Care Innovation

Seniors are taking notice. Thirty-five percent of adults 55 and older recently surveyed by research firm Toluna on behalf of Alignment Healthcare say their health plans don’t use any technology to improve access, information or care — and they want a change. Eighty percent of those surveyed said technology will improve care within five years by helping facilitate disease prevention.

Evolving technology’s role in the long-term and post-acute care industry is especially important, given the rising number of older people in the U.S. By 2030, 1 in 5 residents will be retirement age, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and all baby boomers will be at least 65. By 2035, the number of people 65 years and older will outnumber those younger than 18 by 78 million to 76 million, the first time in U.S. history older people will outnumber children.

In managing this “Silver Tsunami,” evolving technology and innovation centers that emphasize its use in senior care will become invaluable. One such place is the Thrive Center, a facility in Kentucky that encourages the exploration of tools like wearables and virtual reality headsets for seniors.

“We want to be a hub of innovation focused on aging care and bring in senior care providers who are looking to adopt the technology, but also seniors who are ultimately impacted by the technology innovation,” Sheri Rose, the center’s CEO and executive director, tells HealthTech.

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