It’s not exactly news that interoperability efforts in earnest have largely taken place with acute-care settings like hospitals and EDs as Ground Zero. While connecting to post-acute care has been Kno2’s focus from the beginning, it has been slowly getting some attention industry-wide.  However, we’ve seen where that attention wanes pretty quickly upon realizing that all the fancy tools and funding behind inpatient and acute care delivery solutions for data exchange aren’t just going to magically vibe with the less robust tools and processes that are the norm in Post-Acute. Within the care settings rarely addressed, Hospice Care in particular is a veritable No Man’s Land. Given our healthcare system’s focus on illness and disease (for better or worse), it’s not necessarily a surprise that the very providers and patients who are no longer actively fighting a condition aren’t exactly accounted for. But we are here to insist that they should be.

We at Kno2 see it as our job to provide a voice for the patients and providers who shouldn’t get left behind in interoperability efforts simply because the days are numbered. Whether there are days or months left in a person’s life, they are meaningful. These are opportunities, be it many or few, to impact how someone leaves this Earth. And we think that deserves some attention.

Hospice Utilization Has Everything to Do with Provider Communication

The National Institute on Aging has a great page dedicated to the difference between Palliative Care and Hospice Care. One of their key points is that providers and patients should discuss this option far earlier than is common in order to effectively utilize all that Hospice can offer in terminal conditions. It’s scary to hear a physician utter the word “hospice,” so we certainly advocate for thoughtful, compassionate conversations with patients and their loved ones when disease isn’t responding to treatment as hoped or desired. But delaying the conversation too long can result in missed opportunities to serve the patient at a critical moment in the arc of their life, as well as support the family in what comes next.

Especially when patients aren’t faring well, it’s critical that all the providers who make up the care team – wherever they are and leveraging whatever tools they are – can communicate in a timely manner to ensure that the ball doesn’t get dropped on providing palliative care when possible, and calling in respectful end-of-life resources like the Hospice care team when it’s just time.

Relying on existing interoperability solutions generally falls flat in these situations because Hospice Agencies are rarely interfacing with some of the bigger EHRs due to cost and complexity. Many times, the best solution is a secure, simple Direct Messaging inbox that is accessible wherever the provider is (from a patient’s home to their agency’s office), that allows connectivity and communication with everyone from the PCP to the Specialist to the Long-Term Care Facility and beyond. This effective flow of communication doesn’t just level up the patient and caregiver experience, but it also results in more efficient care delivery and cost savings, too. Nick Knowlton was quoted in Hospice News, underlining this exact point: “Care is delivered much more smoothly by hospice organizations when there’s interoperability between them and their referral sources. The ability to talk the talk and walk the walk with referral sources can have a direct bottom line impact.”

Handling Hospice Transitions Via Better Healthcare Communication

It’s worth restating that Hospice Care is unlike many of the other services and use cases we cover. Without acknowledging that, we can’t properly implement solutions to honor these patients and providers well. The nature of transitions for this patient demographic are unlike those that are quite common in the post-acute sector, in that these individuals are more high-risk and fragile than most. Botching the hand off from facility to home to deliver Hospice Care, for example, can mean the difference of which services can be rendered and for how long those services are meaningful to the patient. The stakes are high, so healthcare communication must be facilitated to reflect the unique care setting of a home or Hospice Facility, the specialized providers (angels, really) delivering care, and the precious patients who are facing their remaining days with dignity.

Hospice patients aren’t just another use case. They’re perhaps the most humanizing picture of what we do in the healthcare industry. If an interoperability solution doesn’t make sense for providers and patients outside the folds of the hospital, then they simply don’t make sense. No one should be left behind as we forge ahead on paving innovative, accessible paths toward healthcare communication that serves every human, everywhere.