As providers evaluate how to dig out of this financial crisis, home health care is becoming an even more attractive alternative to institutional care for its ability to reduce exposure, rehospitalizations, and costs, as well as improve the patient experience.
COVID-19 has been a wild wave of destruction forcing individuals, businesses, and industries to evolve. The healthcare industry is at this epicenter and faces an especially tumultuous recovery. According to the American Hospital Association: “Hospitals face catastrophic financial challenges in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The AHA estimates a total four-month financial impact of $202.6 billion in losses for America’s hospitals and health systems, or an average of $50.7 billion per month.”
Below are three ways home health care is evolving and solving problems amid the pandemic.
Incorporating Technology to Reduce Exposure
It is no secret that skilled nursing facilities have been particularly hit hard by the novel coronavirus. According to Skilled Nursing News, a study that “analyzed COVID-19 data from more than 13,000 nursing facilities nationwide, determined that 71% of properties had at least one case, with 27% of them experiencing wider outbreaks.”
Home health care is often a qualified alternative to skilled nursing facilities. By design, they reduce exposure to viruses and disease by providing care for individuals in their own homes. However, home health care isn’t immune to COVID-19. Utilizing tools and technology to maintain a high-standard and expected level of personalization is now necessary.
“We provide a complete solution for stay-at-home care that gives patients and their loved one’s peace of mind,” said Isaac Steg, CEO of Constellation Health Services. “From hospice to personal care, our approach is providing a comprehensive service. Through offerings like virtual visits, in-home diagnostic and testing services, remote patient monitoring, and delivery services, we can keep the individuals we care for safe yet still connected to people. Providing this level of service—and protection—will be demanded in 2021 and beyond, especially concerning our senior populations. Reducing exposure to disease is now the norm, and home health care is positioned to succeed as an alternative to traditional forms of care.”
Avoiding an Onslaught of COVID-19 & Flu
The United States is still very much in the first wave of the coronavirus. Will there be a second wave? This is still up for debate. Experts say several forces at play could contribute to a new pile-up of COVID-19 infections as flu is added to the mix.
For one, as summer wanes to winter, the general population will turn to more indoor activities and must be extra conscientious in practicing social distancing to avoid infection. However, reports from the Southern Hemisphere are positive. Researchers have discovered that increased measures to reduce COVID-19 during the winter months have also prevented flu infections.
Yet, that isn’t guaranteed. The Washington Post reports that “the nightmare scenario would be an exceptionally severe flu season arriving along with COVID-19.” Meanwhile, “the U.S. fails to meet public-health goals for flu vaccination. During the 2018-19 season, only 45.3% of adults got a flu shot. That is above average but below the 70% target set by the Department of Health & Human Services for 2020.”
The bottom line: This is the time to highly recommend that patients and patients’ loved ones get vaccinated.
In more promising news, the Trump Administration released its COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Strategy on Sept. 17.
“As part of Operation Warp Speed, we have been laying the groundwork for months to distribute and administer a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it meets FDA’s gold standard,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
Though, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said a widespread vaccine for the general public wouldn’t be available until the second or third quarter of 2021.
The CDC also released 10 Tips on COVID-19 for Healthcare Providers Involved in Patient Care.
Moving to Value-Based Care
Value-based programs will be the standard in the future as the healthcare system moves away from the unsustainable fee-for-service model. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid define value-based programs as, “rewarding care providers with incentive payments for the quality of care they give to people with Medicare.”
Not only is value-based care great for patients, it’s good for providers. It is becoming essential for providers to partner with home health care agencies to optimize their commitment to value-based programs. These partners support the post-acute care continuum and transitions between care settings such as hospitals or nursing homes.
At Constellation, the Complete Care at Home approach is a response to the value-based model. Through a comprehensive package of home care services—whether in need of hospice or certified home health care—the goal is to prevent rehospitalization and enhance patient experiences.
Value-based models incentivize providers to put the patient at the center of care, and in turn, they reap the financial reward. Moving into the future, providers that partner with like-minded agencies will enhance customer experiences and increase their bottom lines.
“We help partners achieve an average savings of 10 percent by avoiding rehospitalization penalties and reducing nursing home utilization and length-of-stay,” Steg said.
Tips for Choosing Home Health Care Partners
The value of home health care—especially amid a pandemic—is worth recognizing. The industry is challenging the definition of care and solving problems through unpredictable times. As providers evaluate home health care as a solution, it’s crucial to consider the following:
- Customization. Does the agency provide a comprehensive approach to care built around a value-based model?
- Technological capabilities. Does the technology offer ways for clinicians to treat patients effectively? Are there virtual visit capabilities at a minimum?
- Agility. Is the agency able to adapt to changes like pandemics quickly? Do they provide infection control training for staff? Are they easy to work with and meet providers’ needs?
- Safety. Are there vaccine requirements for staff? Do they train staff in safety protocols? What other safety measures does the agency do to reduce exposure?
- Credibility. Has the agency received notable industry awards?
- Leadership. Is the agency leading the evolution in value-based home health care?
If you are a provider serving the Northeast, Constellation Health Services can answer yes to all of these questions and is ready to help you evolve into 2021.
Contact us and learn more.
Constellation is a family-owned, family-centered organization that has remained true to our commitment to providing the best patient experience and the highest quality outcomes. We believe this is accomplished by ensuring that everyone we connect with feels valued, trusted, and heard.