Connecting the Divide between Inpatient and Outpatient Care
By Michelle R. Troseth, MSN, RN, DPNAP, FAAN
Premier Healthcare Alliance’s spring 2013 Economic Outlook predicts a major shift in admissions from inpatient to outpatient settings. With such predictions, healthcare organizations must connect episodes of care, closing the gap between inpatient and outpatient care. Only then will healthcare develop integrated networks that include hospitals, health systems, ambulatory care centers, community clinics, long-term care facilities, home care agencies, and medical groups, that can work together to coordinate care and share accountability for quality, cost, and outcomes.
Accountable care demands the reform of healthcare delivery. The key to successful clinical integration is to build high-performance organizations of physicians, specialists, hospitals, and others that are willing to adopt and use information technology and innovative care systems to prevent illness, enhance safety and quality, and coordinate and integrate care. In the process, these organizations become accountable for the quality and cost of care delivered to a defined patient population.
Equally relevant to closing the inpatient/outpatient divide are the escalating requirements of Meaningful Use, as well as clinical integration, which demands information systems designed to provide clinicians with access to meaningful, actionable information at the point of care decision making.
The great challenge to achieving new ways of thinking and practicing in the midst of the shifting landscape remains in the how to best create integrated healthcare systems. While an interoperable technology platform is unquestionably needed, so is an interoperable practice platform to expedite the seamless transition of care between inpatient and outpatient.
In developing a common practice framework that can be embedded in any technology platform, the following components have been validated as essential for high-quality seamless care:
- Shared purpose and values
- Dialogue skills
- Polarity thinking skills
- Competency in full scope of practice
- Integrated competency to halt duplication of services
- Partnerships to support networking across the continuum
- Evidence-based tools to develop individualized, interdisciplinary, integrated plans of care
- Integrated documentation that reflects the patient’s story, plan, progress and outcomes across the continuum
- Exchange processes and handoffs that ensure safe, quality care
If providers hope to close the gap between inpatient and outpatient care, they should adopt such an infrastructure that supports continuity of care. Among the most essential steps are:
- Provide teams with interprofessional, evidence-based tools
- Implement integrated clinical documentation
- Engage patients and family members
- Insist on interoperable HIT systems
- Develop professional exchange/ handoffs processes that ensure safe, quality, coordinated care
- Allow professionals to practice to their full scope of practice
We can bridge the gap between inpatient and outpatient care if we remain aware of the shifting demands of accountable care, population health management, clinical integration and collaborative, coordinated and consistent care by government, payers, patients, and provider partners. Instead of another high-tech fix, implementation of a comprehensive practice platform that blends evidence-based tools with team competency and compassion should be considered.
Just as important is the investment in smart content that supports integrated documentation, patient engagement, interoperable systems, professional exchange, advanced practice professionals, and intentionally designed tools to support coordinated, collaborative care.
Michelle R. Troseth, MSN, RN, DPNAP, FAAN is chief professional practice officer of Elsevier.