October 05, 2009 09:30 ET

Mending the Process of Healthcare

Health Information Technology, EHRs Offer Solution According to IVANS Survey

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwire - October 5, 2009) - When it comes to the ongoing healthcare discussion, one overriding question is "Is it possible to reduce costs without sacrificing the quality of patient care?" This is a major concern of nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities as they are one of the fastest growing segments of healthcare and often the most expensive; the changes in healthcare will certainly have far reaching effects among this population.

"Many of these facilities are already in a tough position with the massive cuts proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services," says Maggie O'Hara while attending the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living 60th Annual Convention and Expo in Chicago. Ms. O'Hara is Vice President of IVANS, a healthcare information technology services company.

"The budget cuts, scheduled to start this month [October], include reductions of up to $16 billion over ten years to Medicare-funded nursing homes and will certainly have a huge impact," she continues. "The number one priority of healthcare providers is to provide excellent patient care. The main benefit of technology, in terms of health and medical practices, is that it frees up clinicians and the staff so they can focus more time on the patient than on time-consuming administrative tasks."

A recent survey of more than 500 healthcare providers conducted by the company on the issue of healthcare reform and the role of technology indicated that providers are on both sides of the fence when it comes to technology. While respondents, specifically the more than 300 home healthcare and nursing home organizations, believe in the importance of healthcare policy, they are concerned about the toll it will have on patients and providers.

Explains O'Hara, "What we discovered is that they agree on the goals and support the use of technology to increase the quality of care and improve efficiencies, but they are worried about how reform will impact their bottom line." Other key survey findings include:

-- Nearly 70 percent of home healthcare and nursing home organizations say that electronic health records (EHRs) will have a positive impact on their day-to-day business (a fact echoed by the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, which estimates that the healthcare system will save an estimated $140 billion/year if this technology is adopted);

-- 56 percent of respondents have begun or plan to implement EHRs within the next year;

-- More than half (52 percent) of providers doubt that stimulus money will successfully encourage adoption of healthcare information technology;

-- Providers support the use of Health Information Technology to increase quality of care and improve efficiencies;

-- Almost three quarters (72 percent) believe a pay-for-performance model could lead to improved patient outcomes.

To that end, she recommends providers, patients and their families arm themselves with as much information as possible, from available services to how much staff time a facility provides to each patient, and so on so they can make informed decisions.

O'Hara recognizes that there is a lack of adoption when it comes to technology in healthcare practices. "Most large organizations and people who have been doing something one way, successfully, for a long time are resistant to change," she says. That said every healthcare organization should at the very least move from dial-up to secure, high-speed networks. In doing so, they experience immediate benefits, from faster claims processing and access to online applications such as patient eligibility verification. These connections also better position long-term care facilities over time to add efficiencies, including e-prescribing, home monitoring and the exchange of important patient information.

For more information, including local facts and figures, more detailed survey results or to schedule an interview with any of the professionals quoted, please contact Ellen Werther @ /212 980 4499.

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