Post-acute care providers use technology to save time, fight burnout


Effectively deploying administrative tools requires staff buy-in and careful rollouts to minimize hiccups.

Vitas works to get its business units and clinical teams invested in new solutions by familiarizing them with the technology.

“We have to be able to explain to our clinicians why what we’re giving helps them out, and if we can’t, we probably have no business implementing that project,” Hale said.

Before putting any software into use systemwide, Vitas picks certain sites to pilot the solutions. Hale and other information technology employees often work 10- to 15-hour days during testing phases, trying to turn around fixes to reported bugs as rapidly as possible. The piloting process usually goes on for a month or two before leadership begins discussing full-scale adoption, he said.

All pilot projects have different key performance indicators, such as time saved and clinical performance improvement. If goals aren’t achieved, it’s important to have a backup plan and an option to walk away quickly so operations can continue as normal, Hale said.

Hale characterized Vitas’ executive team as forward-thinking when it comes to putting money toward technology. He did not provide financial specifics, but said the investment “isn’t reflected in the budget alone.”

At Amedisys, a home health and hospice provider based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, every rollout has been a lesson learned for leadership about strategy and communication, said Keith Blanchard, senior vice president and chief technology officer. The company uses several tools within its EHR to help staff more easily record, store and locate patient information.

The company in 2021 partnered with vendor Homecare Homebase on smart scheduling technology aimed at reducing work for patient service coordinators at the system’s more than 500 post-acute care facilities. During the pilot phase at a few sites, the tool malfunctioned due to a bug in the code and ended up creating a greater administrative burden for the employees using it, Blanchard said. The pilot approach reduced the amount of time that could have been lost, and the software was eventually successfully implemented.

Providers evaluating a new vendor should consider the specific problems they’re trying to solve, Blanchard said. Amedisys is weighing several technologies, including a speech-to-text tool clinicians could use to speed up documentation at the bedside and a virtual assistant bot to help providers more easily access patient information, treatment plans and referral and transfer data. Blanchard declined to share details about how much the company has spent.

Health systems should ask themselves: “Is this going to be fruitful for us as an organization, and are we going to get the outcome that we’re intending to get—whether that’s cost avoidance, cost savings, less burden, making it easier on our administrative staff or improving their work-life balance?” Blanchard said.

As with all technology rollouts, staff training is necessary. Tim Ashe, chief clinical officer at WellSky—which partners with Amedisys and other organizations to automate diagnosis coding and referrals—said some companies might try to shortcut the learning process to fast-track productivity. But spending more time on education helps create a workforce of capable users who can handle the software at its highest level, he said.

“There’s a steep learning curve as organizations implement new technology or advances in technology on platforms that they may already be using,” Ashe said.


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