COVID-19: A turning point for home care

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Liz Conlin
VP Client Service Director
June 10, 2020
June 10, 2020

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My own 86-year-old mother hasn’t left her home in weeks. Just recently, my nephew told her, “Nana, you can’t leave your house until there is a vaccine!” While this sounds quite drastic, the reality is that family members want to do everything possible to keep their loved ones safe, particularly those who are older and have underlying health concerns.

And there’s no place safer than home, the now central point of our lives and the safe place to hunker down. Which is why home care services, from skilled nursing and companion care to physical therapy, are now so vital—especially for seniors.

According to a nationwide survey by NORC at the University of Chicago, about 55% of seniors age 70 and older saw their medical care interrupted in the first month of social distancing for COVID-19.

Additionally, home care can be one of the solutions for managing both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients, who might otherwise be in a hospital or care facility. So, needless to say, home care isn’t just more important, but is also in higher demand.

CMS requirement relaxation

Fortunately, the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES’s Act gives home care providers and their staff—nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical nurse specialists—the ability to certify home health eligibility. Previously, only physicians, who are increasingly consumed with caring for COVID-19 patients, could do so.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) has also expanded who qualifies for home health care. If a physician determines that a patient should not leave the home because he or she either has COVID-19 or could be especially susceptible to its effects, then that person can be considered homebound—and, thus, qualify for the home health benefit.

This, too, will extend the number of people who can receive care at home.

Telemedicine: more relevant than ever

The need for social distancing and in-home care has also accelerated telehealth. While digital technology can be a barrier for seniors, thanks to services liked, joining a video call with a physician doesn’t require an account or additional software.

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is also being used extensively, as it allows patient information to be accessed easily, while extending affordable and efficient high-quality care. Angela Hospice, for example, provides tablets so families can connect 24/7 to their hospice nurses for questions and advice.

As a result of this ever-changing environment, there are a number of marketing imperatives that home care companies should consider:

  1. Build awareness among referral sources. Given that CMS has at least temporarily changed their home benefit referral rules, it’s imperative that physicians, nurse practitioners, PAs, clinical nurse specialists and hospitalist physicians—since they may discharge COVID-19 patients who still require in-home care—know about your brand and offer. Messages that speak to skills, safety protocols and availability, combined with the reach of digital and social media, work best.
  2. Make your telemedicine program more accessible. There are many platforms, including those that can interface with your existing CRM. Be sure to educate patients on how your telemedicine software works, its advantages as well as how and when they should use it. Also, ensure it is as user-friendly as possible for senior patients.
  3. Prioritize recruitment. This is a great time for recruitment, in particular for healthcare professionals such as CNAs, nurses, PAs and techs seeking new employment. Additionally, with unemployment at an all-time high, it is also a great time to recruit new people to the field from other professions like hospitality or travel, who know the importance of customer service and have a strong desire to help others.
  4. Foster community partnerships. A March ’20 senior survey from the Michigan Area Agency on Aging 1-B indicated that seniors 70+ have expressed concern with the availability of food, pharmacy and medical supply deliveries. This, alongside social isolation and communication challenges, presents a great opportunity to work with volunteer service groups, neighborhood pharmacies and tech companies, who could all bring more value to your clients/patients.

 As they say, out of adversity comes opportunity. Take advantage of this increased need for home care services to let client prospects and referral sources know what you can do to help.

If you are interested in discussing how we can help drive your healthcare business forward, please reach out to us for a complimentary one-hour consultation. We’d love to give you our thoughts.