Now that we are entering into Meaningful Use Stage 2 , when we visit one of the many outstanding hospitals that are found across our country, we all see that technology is being used in every step of a patient’s care, from admission information and initial imaging tests to sharing diagnoses with the resident taking over the next shift and transmitting the prescriptions needed upon discharge to the local pharmacy. If George Clooney returned to film an ER reunion, his character now would be holding a laptop or iPad instead of a clipboard. But, what happens when a patient leaves the hospital? It turns out that technology has the opportunity to make the weeks and months of recovery ahead much more effective. And, for those of you keeping track of the deficit at home, much more cost-effective for our government.
In a recent post on her blog Christina’s Considerations, hospital administrator Christina Thielst shares some startling data. Did you know that the lack of a care plan, or perhaps the lack of follow through with an established plan, means that 20% of Medicare patients will return to the hospital within a month, at the cost of $12 billion? With more than one-third of discharged patients not getting the follow up referrals and tests needed, lives are at risk and ER doctors are inundated with men and women whose needs perhaps should have been met elsewhere and sooner.
Health IT can help in some substantial but simple ways. Set up email or text reminders about upcoming follow up appointments. Create an app that organizes prescriptions. Develop an online communication tool that allows former patients to ask quick questions that could be answered or sent to the proper office as a referral instead of having them return to the emergency room for another expensive stay.
While we are seeming to discover new ways every day to integrate IT into patient care, the aftercare component is one area that cannot be overlooked. What are some other ways that the transition from hospital to home can be made seamless thanks to the digital age? Have you had a good experience that other providers should “copy”? If so, please share!