Looking Back at 2020
Home health agencies entered 2020 with concerns about how PDGM would impact their operations, outcomes, and bottom line. However, the anxiety over addressing PDGM was soon overshadowed by COVID-19. Agency executives quickly turned to telehealth and virtual care to educate their census, conserve PPE, ease the burden facing hospitals, and safely deliver patient care:
- “Synzi just gives us some additional touch points and allows us to keep closer contact and [provide] education,” Linda Murphy, COO of Concierge Home Care, shared in early March. “And especially with what we’ve got going on now, it’s a perfect example of how you can use technology to touch base with your patients a little bit more frequently and efficiently.”
- In April, Alicia Marr, CEO of Excelin Home Health, highlighted that virtual care’s value is more than just preventing person-to-person contact. “For us, it was really related to resource management and the potential lack of PPE that forced us to evaluate care delivery to keep our staff and patients safe,” Marr said.
- “We are leveraging Synzi’s innovative technology to reduce the burden on our nation’s hospitals and open up available beds for the more critical patients,” said Stephan Rodgers, Chief Executive Officer of AccentCare in July. “With Synzi, we enable our front line caregivers to safely answer the call to care of a COVID patient, minimize the risk of infection and transmission, and deliver impactful care virtually in the home.”
Looking Ahead to 2021
The pandemic has been a catalyst for how and where patient care is delivered. Moving forward, technology is expected to play a bigger role in intensifying agencies’ impact with patients, caregivers, staff, and referral partners by:
- Bringing Higher Level Care to the Home: Interest in the hospital-at-home and SNF-at-home models intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. The shift to health-at-home models also reflected seniors’ increasing preference to age and heal at home vs. SNF,s LTCFs, ALFs, etc. Virtual care is critical to making the Hospital-at-home and SNF-at-home models happen as technology enables patients to have more meaningful interactions with clinicians. A high-touch and high-tech approach leverages clinicians practicing at the very top of their license (certified nursing assistants, nurses, home health aides) with innovative clinician and patient use of virtual care, telehealth, and remote patient monitoring.
- Addressing Staffing Challenges: The increase in demand for home health care resulted in the need for more – and better – staffing. Since the start of the pandemic, many home health and hospice agencies have been struggling with recruiting and retaining qualified staff. Virtual care helps agencies better utilize current staff while attracting qualified talent who are interested in providing innovative and better – meaning, more timely and higher quality – care to patients.
- Proving the Power of Data: Value-based care is the future. The emergence of fee-for-value and capitated models depends on patient data and the ability to predict, manage, and improve patient outcomes. Virtual care, assessments, and remote patient monitoring collectively help agencies provide a more holistic view of the patient by sharing patients’ data and levels of engagement with various touchpoints throughout the episode of care. If there are concerns about non-compliance, the agency and the referral partner can readily decide if an immediate intervention is necessary.
As patient engagement expands from “point-of-care” to include “point-of-connection,” agencies will need to reimagine what care delivery looks like and address questions such as:
- What do patients and family caregivers now demand? How has consumer use of technology changed during the pandemic? How have consumer concerns, needs, and wants for home health care changed?
- What are new and emerging technologies that will enhance patient engagement and data collection?
- What will an agency’s clinicians (current employees and future hires) need and want from their employer of choice? How has the pandemic affected their career interests and overall well-being?
- What is the new world order for post-acute care? How can an agency remain competitive and reposition itself with referral partners?
- What is the appropriate balance between in-person and virtual care?