Home health agencies are in a highly competitive situation as they seek to retain existing and attain additional professional referral sources. Successful agencies acknowledge the importance of key metrics such as readmission rates and customer satisfaction/service ratings while their core focus remains delivering compassionate patient care. As referral sources (local hospitals, payers, providers, etc.) are seeking home health partners that can help their CMS ratings, these organizations will turn to those agencies which can help improve quality scores, reduce readmissions, and enhance health and financial outcomes for all stakeholders. Being able to deliver results for patients and referral partners is balanced with being able to reduce costs for all stakeholders.
The role of the home health agency can focus on helping patients make the safe transition home (from inpatient to outpatient) as well as supporting patients with chronic conditions by bringing care to their home. On both sides of the spectrum, home health workers play an important role in helping patients stay on track with their treatment plan and avoid issues which may cause unnecessary readmissions.
According to the National Care Planning Council, there is value in utilizing virtual care within the home health agency model:
- Nurses can be more alert to patients’ current needs and address these needs in a more timely manner than ever before.
- Patients who receive virtual care interventions can receive more comprehensive management, leading to more rapid stabilization and, ideally, learn how to become more competent in self-management skills (as learning self-management being the most cost-effective home health service interaction of all).
To prove their value to referral partners, home health agencies can leverage virtual care communication platform to support readmission reduction strategies. Virtual care can help nurses stay in more frequent touch with their patients by augmenting or even replacing many of their traditional in-home visits. The platform can also help agencies optimize their staffing model by converting nurses’ time-behind-the-wheel into more productive (and more profitable) video-based appointments with patients. Nursing staff will be able to triage more services – and even include additional participants (such as a clinician, specialist, interpreter, remote family member, and/or pharmacist) – to answer the patients’ questions in real-time and address the patients’ emerging conditions without requiring providers to make a home visit or for patients to visit the ER. In many situations, patient issues can be remotely handled in a very timely and cost-effective way using a virtual care platform. With technology, nurses can also virtually engage with their colleagues and supervisors to understand best and new practices in delivering care.
By integrating a virtual care platform into their workflow, these agencies will be on the radar screen of referral sources which recognize the value-add of virtual care. With virtual care, agencies can provide timely and quality care, help reduce readmissions, and also support hospitals, payers, and providers in their respective goals to maximize reimbursement and minimize penalties/fines.