Over the last several months, this blog has covered topics focusing on various aspects of IT and its impact on long term care. In our Thanksgiving Day blog, we observed how important IT has become to all of us – in how we work, how we communicate, how we entertain, how we educate, how we conduct business; IT is everywhere. Although slow in adopting technology, LTC providers have made significant progress in understanding, valuing, and embracing IT as a powerful tool to meet ever-changing challenges. For example, twice we demonstrated this fact as we momentarily digressed from IT-specific topics to alert readers about changes to billing therapy services to Medicare and avoiding workforce-related lawsuits.
These are trying and potentially dangerous times for the economy in general and long term care in particular. The vital role that IT can play in helping LTC providers survive reminds me of the African gazelle. The gazelle can reach a peak speed of 48-50 mph outpacing many of its predators. However, the cheetah can reach 0 to 60 mph in about 3.3 seconds with a top speed of 70 mph. You do the math. Since gazelles are a favorite meal for cheetahs, the difference between life and death is sustainability vs. spurts of brilliance. Cheetahs can only sustain such high speeds in bursts; gazelles on the other hand can maintain their top speed for miles. They can also make sharper turns and initiate quick changes of direction with minimal reduction in speed. Cheetahs cannot. Although slower, gazelles have the advantage if they are alert, sure-footed, and responsive to threats and opportunities.
Likewise, to survive and thrive, to outpace the “cheetah’s” of poor reputation, burdensome and sometimes conflicting regulation, competition, and reduced reimbursement, LTC providers must be on guard, quick to respond, and nimble. However, they also need vision. To blindly charge day-to-day into the fray without a clear understanding of what is going on around them and within their operations, can be suicidal. Data mining and business intelligence can help providers discover, discern, and act on the data they already have. In real time, digital dashboards can reveal business-critical information (Key Performance Indicators – KPIs) displayed in ways that easy to understand.
In 2011, we also discussed how important protection of your IT assets and data is and why disaster plans must include IT. “After the fact” is too late. Also, IT asset management (ITAM) can help providers to track and protect their IT assets, use, and storage.
Just over the horizon loom major changes in health care, ACOs being one of those changes. The significance of ACOs to IT in long term care can be found in the need for interoperability and IT infrastructure. Whether ACO’s pose a threat or an opportunity will depend on the specific market served and the provider’s willingness and ability to respond. Being uninformed and ill prepared is like a deer facing on-coming headlights. The prospect of becoming health care road kill is not appealing.
Question: IT is here to stay, are you on board? In what ways has IT helped your operation?