Thursday, June 17 | Thought Leadership

Achieving Improved Patient Care Through Adversity: Hospice of Washington County and Care Synergy Discuss Challenge and Solution

By Netsmart

As we enter a new year, we invited industry experts Ernesto Lopez, CEO of Hospice of Washington County, and John Blaschke, chief information officer of Care Synergy, to participate in an interactive conversation led by Mike Dordick, senior vice president of post-acute strategy at Netsmart and president of McBee, about the future of hospice. 


Although 2021 will undoubtedly pose unique challenges and obstacles, these leaders provided advice and foresight into how hospices can prepare for tomorrow’s success today. 


Here are their answers to some of the most illuminating questions. 


How has the pandemic made you reimagine workforce strategy?


Ernesto Lopez: “Our biggest challenges over the last nine months have focused on how to ensure people stay connected with their purpose, stay committed to the mission of the organization. We’ve adopted several innovative ways of keeping connected with our staff. We’ve used platforms like Zoom in order to stay connected with staff and create value in those connections.” 


For Lopez, communication doesn’t simply mean having a meeting and providing updates; it means keeping staff engaged. “We’ve seen peaks and valleys these past months,” he said. “We’ve had to seek out different ways of connecting, of reminding people that we are still the same organization, we are still available, we are still here.” 


How has your organization combatted staff burnout?


John Blaschke: “We’ve gone so far as to start a mission-pay process for staff dealing with COVID-19-positive patients. This process doesn’t necessarily have to be a lot of money, but rather serves as an acknowledgement of the risk staff are taking for themselves and their family.” 


In addition to financial recognition, Care Synergy noticed a significant decrease in employee use of paid time off (PTO). To encourage employees to take advantage of their deserved time, the organization changed the amount available for accrual and roll over. 


This adjustment emphasized the importance of PTO for overall employee health and the need to take time away from work, despite the high-stress nature of the current atmosphere. 


What are you doing to ensure you have enough staff to care for patients?


Ernesto Lopez: “Distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been such a key factor, driving us to find ways to get supplies to our staff and avoid spreading a virus.”  


To limit the risk of potential spread, the organization considered solutions like Amazon lockers, designated spaces where staff could gather necessary PPE with limited interaction. Ultimately, the organization retrofitted existing space that allowed staff to work after hours, or nights, in isolated areas. 


“It has been a big challenge. But with adversity, we have leaned on creativity to get us to our primary objective of great patient care.”


How do you see technology impacting hospice care in the coming years?

John Blaschke: “Telehealth is here to stay. I foresee a massive uptick in the use of wearables and virtual visits as well as the delivery of virtual care services to align with delivery services like Door Dash, borrowing the ways in which these companies track resources.”


By employing this kind of technology, hospice providers can better assess staff distribution and time spend. Blaschke also sees the use of secure messaging interfacing with these tracking services to alert patients and family to impending staff arrival. 


Where is more progress required in the hospice industry?


John Blaschke: “We’re still a paper-based, fax-based, hand-written industry. What we are seeing as we have been forced to be remote is how inefficient [the system] is.” A big proponent of interoperabilitya perennial industry buzzwordBlaschke argues that now is the time for the hospice community to embrace the concept completely.


Whether organizations use electronic health information exchange (HIE), point-to-point interfaces, direct secure messaging or the Carequality framework, the ability to share patient information across organizations both internally and externally will not only make organizations more efficient, but will also better care. 


“The more we can strive toward those standards that will share information across our organizations to those external partners the better off everybody will be.” 


Although the past year has posed an unthinkable number of challenges for hospice providers, these leaders are optimistic about the coming year. 


To hear more about the future of hospice and how providers can prepare for success in 2021, watch the entire webinar here.


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