Because of the pandemic, healthcare is undergoing a major transformation. Hospital overcapacity, labor and PPE shortages, and a fear of public transmission together increased the need for telehealth, remote health monitoring and hospital-type care at home.
This new demand will be a real game- changer for hospitals, hospice, skilled nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, home health and in-home care. Here’s why you should care.
1. Acute hospital care at home is becoming a reality
Hospital at Home care has existed since the 1990’s—when John Hopkins University began a trial for their geriatric patients—but has not been widely used, as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) would not reimburse for it. However, in November 2020, CMS introduced a waiver, “Acute Hospital Care at Home,” allowing approved hospitals to provide hospital-at-home care for qualifying Medicare acute care patients who otherwise would’ve been hospitalized.
CMS believes that more than 60 different acute condiions, from asthma to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), can be treated safely at home with proper monitoring and protocols.1 As of March 2021, 56 hospitals in the U.S. have been approved to deliver this type of care.2 For this program to continue beyond the pandemic, hospitals will need to prove that hospital care at home is as effective and more affordable than traditional hospitalizations.
More trained staff will most likely be needed to help support acute care patients during and following hospitalization at home. Additionally, building relationships with hospitals and or hospital-at-home logistics companies, like Contessa Health will help acquire more business in this space.
2. Competition is growing with big players consolidating in-home services
Healthcare plans like Humana and other big players like Amedisys are mapping out how they can own a bigger chunk of the entire continuum of care through consolidation of resources.
Humana—which includes Humana At Home and Kindred at Home, the largest home health provider in the U.S.—is teaming up with in-home service provider Dispatch Health. This enables Humana to provide their 8.4 million Medicare patients with 24/7 remote monitoring and daily visits from providers, including bedside nursing. Dispatch’s team will additionally address social needs, coordinate pharmacy deliveries, offer physical and respiratory therapy, imaging services and more. Humana eventually plans to offer the service to its 16.8 million enrollees. 3
Amedisys’ acquisitions have made it one of the largest hospice providers in the U.S. Their VP of Mergers and Acquisitions recently said, “We view M&A as a tool to help us with our longer-term strategy of providing a continuum of care in the home… You’ll see us focus a little bit more heavily on home health coming out of the recent investments we made in hospice.”4
These consolidations will pose a challenge to smaller companies in the hospice, rehabilitation, home health and in-home care segments. Smaller entities could increase their presence by partnering with other organizations in these segments. They should also bolster their referral source relationships since they can direct patients and families to various providers.
3. Partnerships will become cost of entry
As more healthcare resources help deliver at-home services, it will be key to forge new partnerships for existing and prospective business opportunities.
As CEO Peter Ross from Senior Helpers put it, “Home care 2.0 looks at the continuum of care from home care, home health, hospice, technology, home services. We need to integrate with all these organizations to deliver value-based bundles.”5
Encompass Health and Right at Home are doing just that with a preferred provider relationship. By breaking down the lanes between skilled home health and non-skilled home care, the two together will get ahead of adverse health events and keep people out of the hospital.6
To forge partnerships, organizations must identify opportunities with high quality providers that facilitate a seamless care continuum and improve patient outcomes. A compelling brand story is also essential in making their resources enticing.
4. Providers will need to invest in electronic data access
Improved electronic access will be key to delivering clinical care in the home. Care providers must meet high interoperability standards for physician orders, visit notes, medication information, patient status updates and more.
According to a recent survey from Porter Research and Matrix Care, 74% of referral sources say they would send more referrals to post-acute care providers—including home-based care agencies—that offer greater electronic data access. Yet, many agencies still only meet “basic maturity” interoperability standards for patient demographic data and clinical information.7
To compete, agencies will need to partner or invest in infrastructure that allows them to exchange all patient information and support FHIR interfaces to meet federal guidelines.
Questions to help you prepare for these changes
As the pandemic, technology, legislation and competition changes healthcare delivery models, it is important to revisit your strategic plan periodically to evaluate your brand offer. As you do that, keep these questions in mind:
How are competitors and a changing industry challenging your offer and structure?
- Are you in danger of losing business? What’s missing from your offer?
- What are the biggest threats and opportunities in your current segment?
- What technologies and resources do you need to better leverage?
- Have you considered partnering with a competitor or complementary organization?
- If so, what does an ideal partner look like and what can you offer each other?
Do you have a strong customer base and referral network?
- Do you have customer satisfaction data? How do you rank?
- Are there service or partnership opportunities that could increase customer satisfaction and referrals?
- Are your professional referral sources loyal and aware of all services?
- What could you do to maintain or grow their loyalty?
Is your staff prepared for organizational changes?
- What are your staff’s satisfaction ratings, turnover rate and morale?
- Do you communicate with them regularly about your business and future plans?
- Would they be receptive to growing the company through expansion or partnership?
- Are specialized staff or additional training needed to meet new demands?
Does your brand need an update?
- Does current messaging correctly portray your offer and meet industry needs?
- Is your brand image in line with your brand position and company mission/values?
- Do you have a compelling brand story that promotes and differentiates what you do?
- Can your internal staff communicate your brand story to clients, vendors and referral sources?
Ideally, your strategic plan is flexible and can adapt to industry changes. If you’re in need of help with a strategic plan, brand tune-up or just want to talk, we’re here to help.
- American Hospital Association, Hospital at Home.
- CMS, Covid acute hospital care home program approved list.
- Home Health Care News,” Humana teams up with Dispatch Health to deliver hospital-level care in the home.” February 2, 2021
- Home Health Care News, “Home health experts seeing fewer fire sales tied to PDGM, covid-19.” March 2, 2021
- CareAcademy Blog, “Five agency growth tips from top home care agency CEOs.” January 20, 2021
- Home Health News, “Encompass Health, Right at Home collaborating on value-based delivery models.” March 2, 2021
- Home Health Care News,”74% of referral sources prefer home-based care providers that meet interoperability standards.” March 7, 2020