In late June, LeadingAge and our Center for Aging Services (CAST) convened a summit that brought together providers of long-term services and supports (LTSS), hospitals, physician groups, managed care plans and other payers, health and LTSS IT vendors, and government officials. The purpose of the LTPAC HIT Summit was to connect, collaborate, and drive towards solutions.

We recognize that, as LTSS providers, we can no longer live only in our lanes as the lines are blurring. Payment and delivery systems are rapidly changing, as are consumer expectations. To be successful, we must work together; only then will we be able to realize our vision of an integrated service delivery model.

As we collaborate across sectors, we must be laser-focused on older adults—those we are ultimately serving—and how, through our work together, we can improve their well-being and support them as they age—regardless of setting, payment source, or geography.

No matter what hat one is wearing, we must all put the needs and interests of older adults first.

Here are the questions we need to ask.

  • How can we keep people well and functionally able for longer?
  • How can we help address such social determinants of health as nutrition, transportation, and housing?
  • How can we best coordinate early interventions with any needed medical care and social services—what I would call pre-acute care—or even no-acute care?
  • How can we promote appropriate and timely use of palliative and hospice care and other essential services and supports?
  • And, how can technology help to make this happen?

There is no doubt that technology, especially interoperable IT, is the connective tissue that will enable and hold an integrate system together.

We know the lack of interoperability is an issue for members. I know of a few member organizations that invested in health IT, but are now switching EHRs to enhance their interoperability capabilities, strengthen their strategic positioning in this competitive pay for performance world we live in, and support their partnerships with hospitals, ACOs, and managed care plans. If only they could have found that interoperable capability the first time.

This is precisely why this year’s LTPAC Summit, with broad stakeholder participation, is so strategically important.

As we, at LeadingAge, advocate for an integrated service delivery system that puts the older adult at the center with highly coordinated and readily accessible services and supports, technology is the common denominator.

As we advocate for a more sensible system of paying for LTSS in this country, relieving family pockets and stemming the strain on Medicaid, technology is at the center of activity.

As we advocate for high quality and care coordination, technology is an enabler.

But ad hoc solutions don’t solve the problem. Interoperability is essential. Yet, it is the most elusive concept that we have been chasing for the past decade or so. My hope is that conversations initiated at the LTPAC Summit will help us get closer to turning that concept into a reality.

As is true in other areas of aging services, the need to partner grows increasingly critical as we look to the future. Driving needed systemic and policy changes so that we can maximize the potential of technology is essential. The Summit was, I hope, the beginning of lasting partnerships that will drive towards needed solutions.