National Health IT Week: Celebrating the Path to Aging in Place

There is no better time for the health IT community to come together under one umbrella to raise national awareness of the benefits information technology can bring to the US health system. National Health IT (NHIT) Week is a nationwide awareness week focused on the value of health IT. Each year, NHIT Week Partners educate industry and policy stakeholders on the value of health IT for the US healthcare system. Every Tuesday leading up to NHIT Week, our valued partners will share their voice and experience on how they demonstrate the value of health IT.

My path to health IT was circuitous, with the first significant step coming at the most unlikely of times: when I was spearheading the development of the first ever Ritz-Carlton Residences in Baltimore. I recognized then that the seniors and the chronically ill residing in our developments deserved a better approach to healthcare; one that emphasized aging in place rather than forcing them out of the homes they loved and into nursing homes to have access to the round-the-clock care their health status required.

It was a quest that became very personal after I lost a loved one due to a late diagnosis, emphasizing in the most profound way the need for a next-generation care delivery system and technology that brought to life my vision of the home as an organic extension of the healthcare ecosystem.

We need this now more than ever, as the senior population grows by 10,000, new 65-year-olds each day. Seventy percent of these new seniors will need long-term care in their lifetime, but it’s likely that they will have nowhere to go when it’s time. That’s because there are just 3 million long-term care beds available today to accommodate 46.2 million potential residents—a number that will climb to 89 million by 2050.

The solution to this looming healthcare crisis lies in technology - and data-enabled aging in place that provides in-home access to levels of care once possible only in a nursing home - at a cost that early efforts found to be at least 17 percent lower. From connected devices to artificial intelligence to data analytics, health IT has the power to transform the home health agency into the hub of an integrated delivery network that unifies all the components of home care into a comprehensive aging ecosystem consisting of physicians, home health nurses and aides, and daycare programs.

This unification is critical, as the home health agency of tomorrow must be able to manage both clinical needs and the activities of daily living (ADL) that home-bound patients can no longer manage on their own. From nutrition and transportation to comprehensive social services, home health providers must find efficient, cost-effective ways to coordinate care, including identifying and monitoring patients’ needs, dispatching the appropriate care partner, and managing the quality, documentation and billing for services provided.

A central component of this home-based care model is the expanded collection of data through continuous monitoring of health status and ADLs to determine if and when an intervention is necessary. Social determinants of health—education, environment, socioeconomic status, employment, etc.—must also be addressed.

Properly aggregating, analyzing and delivering this data in an actionable format to all members of the patient’s care team paints half the picture necessary to bring this new model of home care to life. The other half comes from the continuous monitoring of data for clues to changes in conditions or behaviors.

Bringing these halves together requires a solid foundation consisting of a highly-interoperable platform that facilitates a seamless flow of data between previously siloed clinical and payer systems and other data sources, enabling risk stratification and predictive modeling. This allows data to be leveraged to identify and address care gaps, oversee behaviors and medication adherence and manage the workforce. It also delivers the robust reporting capabilities to ensure proper care coordination between partner agencies, including transitions of care, and enable monitoring of core measures performance.

I am grateful to have this opportunity to join with my colleagues in support of National Health IT Week, and to leverage the event’s power to promote the significant impact health IT can have on our ability to make aging in place a reality for the burgeoning senior population. With the proper infrastructure in place and armed with comprehensive clinical claims and social determinant data in meaningful, actionable formats, health IT enables ongoing access to advanced care from the comfort of our homes.