September 22, 2009 09:15 ET

Ohio's Healthcare System in Need of a Booster Shot

IVANS' Survey Indicates Technology as a Solution to Improve Patient Care

COLUMBUS, OH--(Marketwire - September 22, 2009) - The health reform bill currently pending in the House of Representatives, combined with the impact of the cuts being waved in front of Medicare-funded nursing homes -- an estimated $12 billion over 10 years -- will find Ohio's seniors in need of nursing and rehabilitative care on shaky ground. Conservative estimates are putting the system at $2.5 billion over the same period, placing the State fifth among all those facing the highest cuts, according to the American Health Care Association.

Ohio currently ranks in the middle of states in per-beneficiary Medicare spending, but some parts of the state are among the highest spending nationwide. Elyria and Cleveland are among the 100 most expensive of the nation's 306 hospital referral regions in terms of expenses.

From a national perspective, nursing homes and elder care are the fastest growing segments of healthcare, often the most expensive, and the changes in healthcare will certainly have far reaching affects among this population. Locally, besides the long-term care community-facing danger, so are the jobs of more than 3,100 caregivers in Ohio.

Technology: Band-Aid or Solution?

The number of hospitals using a computer network to conduct exams and transfer medical information continues to grow, according to a story in the Canton Repository. According to Michael Schramm, Vice President, IVANS, a healthcare information technology services company, this will go a long way to help ease the burden on facilities and the healthcare workers. "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 indicated that all is not cut and dry. 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. "Many of these facilities are already in a tough position with the massive cuts proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. These cuts, which include an estimated $1 billion proposed cuts in Ohio alone, on top of state cuts of $184 million to skilled nursing facilities imposed through a recently passed state budget, could certainly have a huge impact on the long-term care workforce working with the patients and behind the scenes and threaten care quality," Schramm continued. To that end, he 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.

The survey, which focused on healthcare reform and technology, showed providers are overwhelmingly hopeful that changes to health information technology could have a far-reaching impact -- lowering the cost and improving efficiency of care.

Among the findings:

--  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 to 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.

Said Tamara Van Bibber, RN and Certified OASIS Specialist-Clinical, Principal, Blessed Care Solutions in Ironton, Ohio, "We work with home care agencies across the state to provide them with useful information and solutions so they can provide the best care possible, without incurring astronomical costs." In some cases, she continued, this means teaching them about new and not-so-new technologies that helps to keep costs down but maintaining the level of care.

"Blessed Care Solutions was started by former home health nurses, so our priority as a business is ultimately in ensuring the health and well-being of patients," she continued. "Wherever we can help caretakers our reduce the burden on the caretakers and find alternatives to everything from managing hours to processing payments, we will."

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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