Epic Problem Affecting Home Care Agencies Nationwide

by Tim Rowan

Statement of the problem as we see it
Many hospital software companies have home health care subsidiaries. Some, such as Allscripts, Cerner and McKesson, take home care seriously and invest substantial resources into software development, implementation and training services, maintaining regulatory compliance and providng world class technical support to their home care and hospice customers. Others appear to regard home care as an afterthought, or worse, a marketing opportunity.

A typical scenario looks like this: in the process of trying to win a multi-million dollar sale, a hospital software sales person mentions the advantages of exchanging patient data between hospital and its owned or affiliated home care agency. The sales pitch includes logical assurances that such exchanges are facilitated when both systems are the same brand.

Often, faced with stiff competition, the sales person offers a “pot sweetener,” throwing in his company’s home care software product for free if the hospital purchases the primary product line. When this sales argument, or this gift, is accepted, the hospital’s home care division is soon informed they must replace their current application with a new one, without regard to comparative quality of the old and the new.

When the vendor in question is one of the three named above, there are few problems, other than the pain of implementing and learning a new system, never a minor project. Hospital to home care integration makes patient data sharing smooth and the new home care application is as functional as the one it replaced. However, when the new hospital software vendor’s home care application is inferior to the application it replaces, multiple, long-lasting problems arise, leading to decreased efficiency and increased dissatisfaction at the home care agency.

Typical software inferiorities reported include bare-minimum feature sets, designed to produce RAPs and claims but little else; limited reporting functions; and awkward or non-existent integration with the vendor’s own hospital application.

Widespread and growing problem
We hear from two sources that instances of the latter example are on the rise. At last July’s Healthcare Unbound conference in San Francisco, a universal murmur of agreement wafted through the entire audience when one of their members asked a keynote speaker if he would comment on “The Epic Problem.” The ensuing discussion – both from the podium and the floor – was as detailed as it was emotional.

McKesson’s home care user organization keeps a list – an ever-growing list – of group members who have dropped out when their employer was forced to switch from Horizon Home Care to another hospital vendor’s home care application. Comments as they leave are telling.

First, explained a Horizon Healthcare National User Group member, there is concern about how vendors that put 99.9% of their resources and energy into hospital systems are able to keep their afterthought product current with home care and hospice regulations.

“Finally,” the HHNUG member told us, “Our hospital system’s new vendor does not listen to home care. Believing they ‘know it all,’ they refuse to assemble a group of clients that will be coming on board to get their input…because they don’t want it; they do not like input. Instead, they assign brand new software developers, directly out of college, who know nothing about the business, to their home care product. You would think that, if they want to build the best system, they would want to learn from people who know something about home care and hospice.”

Is there more to this story?
Has your home care agency been affected by “The Epic Problem?” If any of this describes your experience, or if your experience is completely different, tell us your story by writing to editor@homecaretechreport.com. Put “Epic Problem” in the subject line.

©2012 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan’s Home Care Technology Report. homecaretechreport.com One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only.editor@homecaretechreport.com

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