A survey of more than 2,000 facilities shows only 19% of long-term care centers have an electronic health records system in 2017, up from 15% in 2016.

Long-term care centers, which include nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities, are lagging in their use of electronic health records and sharing patient data online, according to a new research report.

In fact, compared to hospitals and group practices, long-term care providers are still very much behind in using digital technology to store and exchange  patient data, says healthcare market research firm Black Book Market Research. More than 90% and 80%, respectively, of hospitals and group practices have an electronic health records system, says Black Book. In comparison, a survey of more than 2,000 facilities shows only 19% of long-term care centers have an electronic health records system in 2017, up from 15% in 2016.

Long-term care facilities are still excluded from operating in a deeply connected care continuum.

Long-term care administrators also report that 86% of their facilities are not exchanging health information electronically with referring hospitals, physicians, or home health providers. Nearly 100% (95%) of long-term care facilities that are sharing some records are only doing so with providers connected to their internal electronic health records system.

“The enormous disconnect between the post-acute world and the rest of the continuum is not correcting as hoped,” says Black Book managing partner Doug Brown. “Finding ways to improve communications between disparate acute care EHRs and post-acute technology is a pressing problem for detached providers.”

Embracing online record-keeping could benefit long-term care facilities by reducing readmissions and allowing providers to collaborate to manage length of stays and monitor a patient’s discharge. Better access to and understanding of electronic patient data could also help nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities achieve better value-based outcomes, a measurement method more healthcare organizations must adhere to as organizations are paid for the quality versus the quantity of care they provide.

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But only 3% of long-term care providers reported using data-driven analytics to lower cost of care, reduce unnecessary hospital readmissions and ensure they receive proper reimbursement for the care provided to the patient, says Black Book.  “It is going to take a willingness to adapt and commit to using technology to confront the challenges ahead but post-acute organizations admit they are not prepared,” Brown says. “Integrating evidence-based practices through clinical operations can control rising costs, reduce duplication and other inefficiencies, and position the business to be a successful player in the reforming post-acute continuum.”

It’s important that long-term care facilities communicate more effectively with other healthcare providers because it’s the sickest patients most in need of follow-up care and monitoring that hospitals and doctors may lose track of once they enter a nursing home.

“Long-term care facilities are still excluded from operating in a deeply connected care continuum due to limited resources and communication channels,” Brown says. The Black Book survey found that 94% of care managers surveyed acknowledge that hospitals send their most complex cases and sickest patients to skilled nursing facilities, yet the survey shows there are virtually no communication channels between the nursing home and the hospital.

“The lack of communication is an extremely expensive problem, especially as hospitals become responsible financially for long-term outcomes and preventable patient readmissions,” Brown says.

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