Change is never easy. Change management for providers is especially challenging. There is more burden and burnout prevalent amongst providers than ever before, despite technological advances, and dealing with ever-changing tools and regulations certainly doesn’t help. Where we see a gap in the industry is in not properly honoring the difficulty of transitioning from manual to automated process – the former of which are still very common in post-acute care settings like skilled nursing – and helping to quickly bridge the gap from paper to electronic. The “rip off the band-aid” approach with little respect for the impact of changing workflows for a busy practice is frankly not cool. But neither is a lingering transition without any real path to ultimately streamlining the lines of communication. For communication channels to actually benefit and empower skilled nursing providers, a path toward simplified collaboration is key!

Where Two Communication Channels Are Good…Twelve Aren’t Necessarily Better

One of our beefs with point-to-point connections in healthcare interoperability approaches is that they often create yet another inbox or portal to be babysat by an already-overwhelmed provider or clinical staff. When automation is leveraged to level up skilled nursing care, which it absolutely should be, the strategy cannot be to linger with double the open lines of communication. So, if implementing cloud faxing is on the docket, great! (Don’t knock faxing…it has its place.) But, don’t keep the old, analog fax plugged in. Healthcare IT vendors must provide a path toward consolidation, with an eye on simplification wherever possible, realizing that the ROI doesn’t manifest without a committed pivot.

The Need for Flexible Tools for Skilled Nursing Nuance

On the other hand, given the reality of patients who are seeking skilled nursing services, it’s important to bear in mind that these folks may not be your prime candidates for implementing cutting-edge digital means of communications. The intake process and referral management for post-acute care is vital for managing transitions in care, and yet we have to realize that a broad mix of communication methods exist between hospitals on robust EHRs, post-acute providers using a sampler platter of solutions (including paper charts, bless it), and patients who may or may not be willing to use apps on their smartphones.

We have thankfully retired carrier pigeons, but aside from that, a barrage of methods for managing patients abounds. This is where we can’t advocate enough for tools in the market that play well with existing technology, those that provide immediate value without costly or complicated implementations, and that provide flexibility for use cases and users.

Bringing the Focus Back to the (Patient’s) Face

So much time (and therefore money) is being wasted on turning skilled nursing staff into paper chasers. Patients seeking skilled nursing services require, by nature of their conditions, high-touch service with a focus on the individual. But this need is compromised when post-acute providers are doing the communication equivalent of playing whack-a-mole. Collaboration between care teams is a no-brainer, so creating fewer yet effective (and secure) healthcare communication channels for providers to exchange information, facilitate referrals, and serve patients is vital for everyone’s sanity and for the services rendered.