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Interoperability and post-acute care

Many post-acute care facilities rely on faxes, but it’s possible to layer modern technology onto fax solutions to increase interoperability.
By admin
Jun 15, 2023, 1:32 PM

This article is the fifth in a series on meeting information blocking requirements and overcoming barriers to data exchange and interoperability. The final piece in this series will discuss how third-party partners can augment strategies for overcoming “last mile” barriers to interoperability.   

Healthcare’s push for interoperability, driven by mandates such as meaningful use and the 21st Century CURES Act, has helped large health systems share information. One key benefit is enabling clinical staff to make more informed decisions in the emergency department or the intensive care unit. 

Unfortunately, there are still roadblocks to connecting other care settings. Since meaningful use didn’t apply to nursing homes and other post-acute care facilities, many have electronic health record systems that aren’t required to readily exchange information with other EHRs. In other cases, the EHR offers this functionality but a provider elects not to use it due to the cost of implementation or the negative impact to existing workflows.   

Lack of information exchange disrupts care continuity for the approximately 26% of all patients (including 40% of Medicare beneficiaries) who are discharged from the hospital to a post acute care setting. Staff in those facilities know the immediate reason for the transfer, but they may not know about drug allergies, comorbidities, or other important parts of a patient’s medical history. 

Poor interoperability also poses a business challenge. A recent survey showed 99% of hospitals prefer to refer patients to post-acute care providers that can support electronic data exchange. Facilities that can’t share data electronically will likely lose patients to facilities that can. 

The interoperability problem may seem daunting, but the solution doesn’t have to be. That’s because it’s possible to apply three modern technologies to a legacy solution – the fax – still used by more than two-thirds of providers. 

The first technology is cloud-based faxing. This is much more than getting rid of physical fax machines and servers, or saving paper. It’s encrypting and sharing digital documents and pulling files directly into a patient’s medical record as attachments. 

Cloud faxing is valuable, but on its own it has limitations. If a digital document arrives as a PDF or TIFF, it’s unstructured. The recipient can view the document; however, they can’t search it, and they can’t incorporate the unstructured data into the corresponding fields in a patient’s record. Someone must manually reenter the information – a time-consuming and error-prone process that’s little different from paper fax workflows. 

That’s where additional technologies come into play. Natural language processing can recognize the character strings in a document as demographic information, prescriptions, symptoms, referral requests, and so on. NLP can assign these data points to the right fields within the EHR, which is critical for turning raw, unstructured data into structured, machine-readable data for population-level analysis. 

Applying artificial intelligence helps an NLP system learn and improve over time. This allows systems to detect variations in how data is presented and even recommend action to take if, for example, an incoming fax includes an urgent notification. 

Post-acute care providers play a critical role in care delivery, but they’re often left out of the interoperability discussion. Leveraging existing technology in a new way can help these providers get the data they need, ensure care continuity, and stand out as a valuable referral partner. 

About Consensus Cloud Solutions: Consensus Cloud Solutions, Inc. (NASDAQ: CCSI) has been a global leader of digital cloud fax technology for over 25 years. The company leverages its technology heritage to provide secure solutions that transform simple digital documents into advanced healthcare standard HL7 FHIR for secure data exchange. Consensus offers eFax, a global leader in online faxing, Consensus Unite and Consensus Harmony interoperability solutions, Consensus Signal for secure automatic real-time healthcare communications, Consensus Clarity, a Natural Language Processing (NLP)/Artificial Intelligence solution, and jSign for electronic digital signatures. For more information about Consensus, visit consensus.com. Follow us on Twitter @ConsensusCS. 

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