COVID-19 has led to increased interest in home-based care among individuals recovering after medical procedures. Many hospitals are now referring more patients to home health for rehab and post-acute care delivery than to skilled nursing facilities.
The pandemic has also shed light on the need for home healthcare among people with chronic conditions that require ongoing treatment. Telehealth adoption has experienced a rapid rise, with 95% of health centers reporting telehealth usage. Telemedicine, however, is just one aspect of home healthcare.
The Biden Administration’s proposed infrastructure plan includes $400 billion to provide senior citizens with home and community based services, such as home visits from nurses and occupational therapists, assistance from case managers, transportation to appointments and financial assistance for durable medical equipment.
It appears that the shift to care in the home is poised to continue, even after public health concerns about COVID-19 decrease.
Effective Home Health Care Requires a Holistic Approach
Research suggests that significant segments of the home health population in the United States require a wide range of medical services. According to the Alliance for Home Health Quality and Innovation, close to half of home health patients have five or more chronic conditions and more than a third has a severe mental illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Dual-eligible home health users also often have more chronic conditions and tend to need assistance with more activities of daily living, such as eating or bathing.
Home health care initiatives will only be successful if providers can coordinate care across multiple conditions and address social determinants of health. These issues will become increasingly important as the numbers of aging Americans grow.
Care coordination across different specialties, such as therapists, home-based lab services, telemedicine providers and more is also critical for individuals who are referred from the hospital to home health. Research by the Alliance for Home Health Quality and Innovation indicates that the most common diagnoses for this group include septicemia or severe sepsis, major hip and knee joint replacements, heart failure, hip and femur procedures and pneumonia.
Technology Is More Important Than Ever
Care management tools and technologies are essential for providing individuals with high-quality home-based care. These solutions can help a diverse set of providers create coordinated treatment plans, track whether individuals are adhering to treatments, monitor patients remotely and schedule individuals for either telemedicine or face-to-face appointments with providers.
Ideally, health systems and plans will adopt care management solutions that are optimized to improve the home health experience for both patients and in-field care providers. Care management platforms that support offline data entry, for example, can decrease the administrative burden faced by home health practitioners and reduce burnout.
Expanded home health options may be one of the silver-linings to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients and payers view these solutions as a win-win. Holistic, well-coordinated home health programs have the potential to reduce healthcare costs, while improving outcomes and patient satisfaction.