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Why 2016 Is Poised to Be the ‘Year of Mobile’ in Home Health Care

These days, nearly everything can be done on a mobile device. From banking to ordering a pizza for dinner, everything one needs to be productive and stay ahead of our busy lives is available right in the palm of their hand.

It only makes sense, then, that mobile technology is gaining ground in the world of health care. In fact, back in 2014, research firm PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted that DIY health care was going to be the dominant trend in health care, with more patients tuning to mobile applications and personal medical devices as tools to manage their own health care.Year of Mobile

Patients and providers alike are more willing than ever to embrace apps that monitor a patient’s vital signs and automatically report the results to a physician or remind patients to take their medication, or to communicate via digital tools, including everything from video conferencing to text messages.

Even older adults are getting in on the act. While the assumption is often that older people are less willing to adopt technology, especially when it comes to health care, studies show that the exact opposite is true. According to research published in Modern Healthcare, 60 percent of seniors reported a willingness to wear digital devices that monitor their vital signs, and 66 percent said that they prefer to use online self-service tools to manage their own care.

With so many people eager to incorporate mobile tools into health care, it only makes sense that home health care is on the forefront of adopting the technology. After all, the very nature of home health care lends itself to mobile solutions, with providers constantly on the go in an ever-changing environment. With that in mind, some are predicting that 2016 will finally be the year that home health care truly goes mobile.

What’s Causing the Shift?

While the world in general is shifting to a more mobile-based society, there are several factors that directly contribute to the increased adoption within home health care.

CMS Reimbursement Rates. CMS recently announced a proposed series of ongoing cuts to home health care reimbursements for Medicare patients; the 1.72 percent reduction in reimbursements in 2016 and 2017 stand to reduce payments to providers by $350 million. These cuts leave home health agencies with a negative margin on Medicare payments. However, mobile home health management solutions allow agencies to trim certain operating costs, including:

  • More accurate mileage and travel expense reimbursements, since calculations are made automatically using the application tools
  • More accurate timesheet and location information, reducing errors and overcharges
  • Decreased expenses related to data entry, hard copy paper storage of documentation, and audits
  • More efficient management of patient records, ensuing compliance with CMS regulations and rating criteria, which may eventually result in increased payments under the proposed Value Based Purchasing plan currently being tested in several states.

Need for Improved Compliance. Home health care is under increased scrutiny by CMS and insurers due to high rates of fraud. Ensuring employee compliance with agency and CMS rules during visits can prove challenging for some agencies. Mobile solutions allow automatic monitoring to ensure that visits are on time and of the correct duration.Improved ComplianceMeaningful Use Requirements. Health care providers are entering Phase 2 of the federally mandated meaningful use requirements for Electronic Health Records (EHR). These criteria, designed to reduce hospital readmissions and improve outcomes in patient care, include the adoption of portals for patients to report their own health data to physicians as part of their medical record. Mobile home health applications not only allow patients to communicate with their providers, but home health caregivers can access real time data and care plan updates to prevent costly treatment errors.

CMS Star Ratings. In 2015, CMS began awarding star ratings to home health agencies as a means for consumers to make informed decisions about who to select for care. Several of the criteria for star ratings, such as confirmation of flu vaccinations, can be easily managed via mobile applications, ensuing compliance and increasing an agency’s rating.

Provider Demand. Finally, many home health providers are demanding solutions that make their jobs easier. Almost everyone carries some type of mobile device, and using an intuitive application instead of paper — and then entering data manually — saves time and streamlines the delivery of care. Not to mention, directly entering information into a client record reduces the likelihood of clerical errors, which can affect billing and compliance.

More home health agencies are exploring mobile solutions every day. While 100 percent adoption of the technology may be far off in the future, don’t be surprised if the number of agencies using mobile solutions increases exponentially in 2016.

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