Home Infusion Therapy:
What Lies Ahead After
What Lies Ahead After
The Role of Virtual Care and Data
Insights in a Changing Industry
The Role of Virtual Care and Data
Insights in a Changing Industry
The Role of Virtual Care and Data Insights in a Changing Industry
Long before “coronavirus” and “social distancing” were familiar terms, the home infusion industry was thriving as a result of an escalating need for its specialized services. To meet an ever-increasing demand, the service was undergoing a transformation, steering toward a digital future.
For years, home and specialty infusion agencies managed through paper-based processes, inefficiencies and, as a result, sub-optimal client care. Nurses spent as much time filing manual reports as they did on therapeutic care. Managers would print, scan and upload documents into systems that were behind the times. Finance departments routinely played catch-up on billing. Pharmacies lagged in filling and needed supplies.
The National Home Infusion Association (NHIA) was in the midst of embracing technology change in a national data initiative that would standardize how patient data was collected to subsequently drive quality improvement. Meanwhile, as agencies contemplated how to modernize their operations, a pandemic struck.
COVID-19 ushered in a new sense of urgency into an industry that must evolve. It, of course, also delivered profound challenges both clinically and organizationally, and for support we’d direct you to the NHIA’s resource hub. In this article we’ll focus on solutions, on proactivity, on how technology and software can help all who service the home infusion industry right now, and into the future.
Going paperless is of clear benefit, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg on what needs to be done. In a health crisis that may extend longer than we might care to consider, agencies must examine what interventions can be effectively done virtually. Any in-person interventions must assure safety for both nurse and client. Family caregivers must be empowered to be full team members in their loved one’s care. And, all the while, businesses must not suffer reimbursement issues during a hectic time when their capacity is put to the test.
Amidst such monumental disruption, home infusion providers can incorporate data in new ways to stay on track and prevent being submerged in COVID complexities. More than ever, cloud-based home infusion software solutions are a must, as they underpin an agency’s ability to operate virtually. The same goes for mobile technology, which must leverage the cloud to provide immediate access to information for all staff as well as clients.
Scheduling was already a thorny challenge in home infusion before schedulers had to minimize the risk of a massively contagious virus affecting skilled nurses and vulnerable clients. Staggering schedules takes on heightened importance now. Agencies also have had to contemplate contact tracing in their own networks and decide how to respond to positive tests. Then there is the burden of capturing information and reporting everything from COVID expenses to staff screening results to revenue losses to actual infusion services performed.
Keeping providers and recipients of infusion therapy safe begins with capturing data in an efficient way that allows for quick action. With AlayaCare’s system, caregivers can use a COVID-19 screening tool built into the mobile app, and through the Family Portal software can deploy a client screener as a self-health check. It’s imperative to screen clients before they enter a clinic or before nurses visit a home, and this application walks a user through questions that determine the potential risk of infection. The key here is to proactively capture that vital information – particularly when screening is mandatory and needs to be airtight.
The AlayaCare platform has functionality that enables home infusion agencies to assess COVID-19 risk levels for every employee or client, based on factors such as age, geographic location, medical history, and care reports. An “emergency risk levels” feature highlights individual risk severity for any client, which are noted as “tags” in the software. Once agencies know they can capture the right data, they can set internal protocols to direct next steps.
Being able to visualize data becomes a key aspect of contact tracing. Say a client tests positive for COVID-19 – at the click of a button, all staff can view any first- or second-degree connections with that particular client and quarantine themselves accordingly. Post-illness assessments and tracking systems for staff who have taken time off can help manage caregivers returning to work after experiencing symptoms. While governments struggle to implement wide-scale contact tracing, it is feasible within an agency’s own ecosystem. It isn’t even that complicated; it just requires data tools in place.
Elsewhere, data visualization can reveal how a home infusion agency is doing from a business perspective. They can map key indicators such as visit volume to see how they are trending in aggregate, to understand potential lost revenue and its broader impact.
Capture, assess, decide: the three steps to making data work for you.
At first blush, the specialized delivery of infusion therapy may not seem to lend itself to virtual care. Yet we think all elements of home care are about to permanently change when it comes to this subject, thrust into the spotlight due to COVID-19.
“Virtual” extends to phone calls, recorded video, live video conferences, remote patient monitoring, and wearable technology. When it comes to video, while there is no substitute for in-person interactions, the need for physical distancing has shown society that we can do a lot more things virtually than we might have imagined. And we can stay connected much easier and at any time.
How will this evolution impact home infusion providers? We believe that supervisory visits and assessments that can be virtual will permanently change the industry. In the here and now, it’s been compelled by COVID-19 and in the future it will be compelled by efficiency.
It’s up to agencies to determine their comfort level with virtual care, but the possibilities are real. Outside of administering medication, how many visits by nurses are more about monitoring patient progress or collecting vitals? Can this burden be shifted to clients, enabling them to take greater control of self-managing their care? With the right tools and support, many clients can themselves be responsible for some documentation.
In the same vein, family caregivers can become more sophisticated members of the health-care team. They can be coached through some interventions, how to capture vitals and monitor their loved ones from afar. We have seen a clue at AlayaCare as to the acceptance of this elevated role: our Family Portal software accelerated in adoption after COVID-19 struck. Through the portal, everyone has visibility into care planning, preventing miscommunication among the often many loved ones invested in a client’s care.
Then we come to the actual virtual appointments with skilled staff. The AlayaCare virtual care suite allows nurses to adjust the service code on any visit in the schedule to be conducted virtually. An email is sent to the client with one secure link that creates a virtual interaction within the system. Nurses or caregivers can do real-time charting in the app just as they might with an in-person visit. Instead of performing, say, four visits in one day, that nurse could do eight virtually. This newfound capacity is a surplus of what was a scarce resource only months ago.
Another concept abetted by software is risk stratification: tools that can help clinicians direct their attention toward higher-risk clients. Based on diagnoses, demographics and vital signs, a risk profile for each client can be aggregated. In this manner, nurses can devote more time to higher-risk clients, or those whose status may be deteriorating – with easy virtual visits or in-home appointments.
This is an industry of immense growth. Estimates peg the home infusion market at over 13.5 billion USD by 2024 in the U.S. alone. The time is now to capitalize on the promise of software and telehealth in preserving nursing time, virtually assisting infusion clients when possible, and embracing the future. Software can support clinical decision-making and safer interventions. Data, liberated from paper, demonstrates an agency’s value and drives efficiency and outcomes.
We can’t afford to waste the opportunities presented by this crisis.
Change isn’t easy, and implementing a home infusion software needs resources and commitment from everyone involved. It also doesn’t end after implementation – innovations must be assessed and improved on an ongoing basis. It can feel, particularly during a crisis, like one is changing the wings of a plane in flight. A good software company should have teams in place to serve as mechanics at all points on the journey.
The first step is to focus on front-line users. Deliver a safe and high-quality experience for nurses and care providers, and others will follow – boosting client satisfaction, operational efficiency and, most importantly, patient outcomes.
A specialty industry deserves specialized software and innovation, that both addresses immediate concerns with COVID-19 and sets in place the foundation for optimal home infusion therapy in years to come.