Hospice of the Western Reserve has begun construction on a $3.25 million facility built with an advanced technology system aimed at improving operational efficiency and patient experiences. The new Care Solutions Center represents a technological investment anticipated to bring in significant savings in the long-term, according to president and CEO William Finn.
Hospice of the Western Reserve serves 1,200 patients daily across nine counties throughout Northern Ohio. The 4,000 square-foot center will be located near the hospice’s headquarters in Cleveland, where 14% of the population is 65 and older in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Adults in this age group accounted for 17.5% of the state’s overall population that same year, the bureau reported. Ohio is projected to see a surge in its aging population by 2030.
The hospice provider’s Care Solution Center will employ more than 40 hospice professionals working 24/7 with access to a centralized technological system. The system will house information on patients’ health conditions, medications, care plans and previous communications. Additionally, the system has the ability to track staff locations in the field through a navigational system, as well as dispatch clinicians as needed.
The center’s impetus grew out of a desire to improve patient, family and referral source experiences through efficient and expedited communication, Finn told Hospice News.
“We want it to be very easy and very simple to get in touch with us and be able to respond to requests rapidly,” said Finn. “We looked at what technology exists in other industries and how we can apply that to the hospice industry, and then really went about committing to the development of our center that could take all these ideas that we’ve gathered and leverage them for hospice patients and their families.”
The Buckeye State ranks sixth nationwide in hospice utilization with 56.7% Medicare decedents electing hospice in 2018, according to the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization. Utah held the highest utilization rate at 60.5%.
In collaboration with its parent company, Western Reserve Care Solutions, the hospice has an established network that provides back-office services to smaller not-for-profit community-based hospices in Ohio such as physician contracting, on-call support and educational and technological resources. These synergies can drive down the cost of care and improve patient outcomes and satisfaction, as Finn stated in a podcast from hospice law firm, Husch Blackwell.
“We expect this to save a little less than a million dollars over a five-year period, so there is a significant savings attached to it,” Finn told Hospice News. “We believe it’ll be a cost-effective service that could be offered to other nonprofit hospices.”
Hospices have been building up new levels of efficiency into their workflows, with a rising number of providers levering emerging technologies to help build efficiency. Hospice of the Western Reserve’s care solutions center will feature mapping and communication technologies aimed to improve care collaboration among staff, and with patients and caregivers.
The center’s staff will be able to connect directly with clinical staff serving patients 24/7, while also fielding calls from patients, families and caregivers on a single, direct interface that will eliminate rerouted calls and hold times. The technological system allows patients to leave feedback and identify improvement areas, and features alerts for providers when follow-up is needed.
“In cases where a visit is required, we took some of the global positioning technology out there to be able to track our staff and reprioritize visits as quickly as possible,” Finn said. “On the customer service side of this, these are all very helpful and comforting things for caregivers to know what to expect, who’s going to be there and when.”
Funding to build the center came from a $2 million donation from the James and Angela Hambrick Foundation, which led to matching grants totaling $1.25 million from the Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Foundation and the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation.
Training and hiring staff for the facility will be ongoing during the next year, with plans to open the care solutions center early in 2022. According to a local news outlet, the center’s advanced technology is expected to expand access to services including hospice, palliative care, pediatric palliative care and bereavement support across the state of Ohio.
“[The center] should make the relationships and the coordinations of care more streamlined, more user-friendly, and just make it feel more personalized for the patient and family as well, because it should feel personalized when you call a hospice,” Finn said. “It’s a relationship where you feel like this person knows what’s going on and they’re there to help you.”