Even though there are more than 2 million home health professionals providing care for nearly 5 million people every year — making it a significant part of the overall health care system in the U.S. — the industry is faced with significant challenges. Among them includes attracting and retaining talent, as while the role of the home health care provider has expanded and developed over the last decade, there is still a profound misunderstanding of what home health professionals actually do. Combined with generally low pay, increasingly complex regulations, and a lack of consistency in terms of what constitutes quality care, the challenges inherent in operating a home health agency have the potential to put the entire industry in jeopardy.
Given home health’s role as a cornerstone of healthcare, industry leaders are committed to finding ways to improve operations and better establish the position of home health within overall care delivery. Recently, a group of home health care agency leaders from New York met with the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute to discuss some of the issues within home health services, and brainstorm some possible solutions. The group identified a number of areas that could be improved or changed, which would lead to a stronger, more respected, and more efficient home health system.
Solution #1: Define Quality Better
“Quality” has become a buzzword in all aspects of healthcare, but even professionals have a hard time defining what constitutes quality care. CMS implemented the Home Health Quality of Patient Care Star Rating system in 2016, with the intent of making it easier for consumers to compare agencies in their area, but there has been confusion and criticism directed at the system.
For starters, the Quality of Care Star Rating is separate from the Patient Satisfaction Star Rating, and there are often discrepancies within the same agency. Not to mention, the Star Rating system itself, and the overall quality measures for home health care, have been criticized by industry leaders and providers alike as some of the measures aren’t applicable to all patients, or aren’t an accurate representation of the quality of care provided. Providers note that the real indicators of quality that matter to patients — such as the relationship between the provider and the patient — aren’t being addressed in quality ratings, and hurting the industry as a whole.
Therefore, the first suggestion for improving home health is to better define what quality care means in home health, and devise measurements that provide a real picture of the care being provided, which will both improve overall care and the perception of home health in general.
Solution #2: Use Technology More Effectively
Technology has the potential to be a game changer in home health care, provided that home health agencies are not only willing, but able, to make the necessary investments. From telehealth and remote monitoring systems that allow providers to more effectively monitor patients at home, to home health software and mobile technologies that improve communication and streamline record keeping and other administrative tasks, technology is undoubtedly a key aspect of the future of home health. By giving home health providers better tools to do their jobs, the quality of care will improve, as well as the working conditions for home health professionals.
Solution #3: Support the Role of the Home Health Provider
The American population is getting older — and with age comes increasingly complex medical needs. However, over the last decade, despite the increased needs of the populations they serve, the role of the home health provider hasn’t advanced at the same rate. According to the leaders at the PHI meetings, most home health workers are primarily focused on providing assistance with daily living needs, despite the requirements for home health to provide monitoring and observation of patients. Simply put, most home health aides are not equipped to provide the observing and recording tasks required of them — and aren’t being paid commensurate with the services they provide.
Therefore, leaders propose increasing the role of the home health provider to be more in line with the acuity of the patients they are working with. This includes standardizing training and education requirements for aids, as well as providing the tools and skills they need to collect the necessary information and communicate it to the appropriate individuals.
In addition to improving the training of home health aides, leaders note that family caregivers also need additional training and support, since they are the ones providing the majority of care. By improving their skills and knowledge, they can more effectively work with home health professionals and improve the quality of care.
Solution #4: Improve Home Health Jobs
Finally, the leaders at the PHI conference note that home health jobs overall need to be improved to move the industry forward. Improving pay, providing more opportunities for growth and development, and improving the perception of home health both in the medical community and the general public are among the goals they have for the industry. The intent is to keep moving forward and remaining sustainable in the years to come.
Complia Health can be a part of your agency’s efforts to reach these goals. Click here to learn more about our products and tools that can help streamline your home health agency management and help your team deliver cost-effective, efficient, and quality care.