Information Technology Essential But Not Sufficient In Long-Term Care

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Health information technology (HIT) is a powerful tool for improving the quality of long-term care, but it must be implemented to interact with other segments of healthcare in order to be successful, according to a new report by BearingPoint, prepared for the National Commission for Quality Long-Term Care. The Commission is a nonpartisan independent body based in Washington but overseen by The New School in New York.

The report examines long-term care within the broader healthcare context, addressing the steps that need to be taken so that information technology can help improve quality of life for all. Due to the shortage of available resources, a strong business case must be made for the adoption of HIT by many differing long-term care stakeholders, and clear incentives for improving efficiency and outcomes for consumers must be provided.

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The report concludes that technology in long-term care is much more fragmented than the rest of the healthcare system. It also involves a wider spectrum of issues; provides a wider range of services for seniors; faces greater workforce and financing challenges; and has been slower to adopt technology. To combat these barriers, the report suggests that policymakers and federal healthcare purchasers must understand that the full integration of HIT into long-term care will affect all other healthcare sectors because a disproportionate percentage of health care dollars are spent on the elderly. However, the origins of these expenditures often begin many years earlier. So the role of HIT in improving the health of seniors must focus on people of all ages. A more holistic approach to developing HIT-related solutions is required.

The report explains how HIT not only enhances data collection and aggregation, but makes data analysis more efficient, more consistent, and more effective in determining what changes will deliver better outcomes. In particular, HIT reduces isolation among caregivers and patients through social networking and electronic communities; enables learning management systems and modular education programs; uses information sharing to maximize the utility of technology investments; delivers greater consistency in reported data through unambiguous, computable queries; supports the greater alignment of financial incentives and reimbursement models with quality outcomes.

Several recommendations are offered to the Commission, including making quality long-term care a national priority; accelerating industry-wide collaboration and leadership around the use of HIT in long-term care; and establishing federal leadership entities and positions dedicated to long-term care technology.

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