In late June, the Alliance for Home Health Quality and Innovation presented a panel based on research and input from individuals at a number of symposia held throughout 2015 that painted a picture of what home health care will — and should — look like as we move forward in the ever-changing health care delivery system. Much of the panel focused on developing a framework for stakeholders to use when planning for the future, and what the home health care agency of the future might look like.
The Alliance’s panel highlighted a number of key trends that are influencing the delivery of home health care now and will continue to do so in the future. While a full report will be published later this year, as you begin looking at FY 2017 and beyond, it is useful to consider some of these important trends and influences.
No discussion of the future of home health care would be complete without addressing technology. It’s not going to be long before technology forms the foundation of everything that we do in home health care, from patient monitoring via wearable devices to home health software that allows for more efficient and cost-effective care. Mobile and digital technology are becoming more widely accepted as a means to coordinate and deliver care; the sheer number of bills before Congress devoted to telehealth is evidence that technology plays a significant role in the care delivery models of the future.
Even beyond those important functions, though, home health agencies are well served to explore the role of technology in filling the spaces between patient encounters, such providing patient education, remote monitoring, and secure communication portals.
Quality is a buzzword across the health care spectrum. With CMS tying reimbursements at least in some part to quality — and the expectation that providers will deliver high-quality care while still being mindful of costs, home health agencies need to pay close attention to their own efforts to improve quality and ensure the highest level of patient care possible. Working toward a five-star rating in quality from Medicare is just one step in this effort, which also requires adhering to evidence-based best practices and analyzing as much data as possible to identify areas in which quality can be improved and the ways to improve it.
The Alliance predicts that the most successful home health agencies of the future will be those that are able to most successfully establish and leverage partnerships with other providers and non-provider organizations to deliver the best possible care. One of the underpinnings of health care reform and provisions like Accountable Care Organizations and value-based payments is an effort to encourage different providers to collaborate with each other. Home health agencies that can build those partnerships and create a more seamless and less fragmented health care experience for their patients will be the most successful going forward.
4. A Focus on People
While a home health care agency is undoubtedly a business, it is one that needs to put people first. Health care in general is shifting from a transactional industry to one that is patient centered, and focused on the individual goals and needs of the patients themselves. Ensuring patient satisfaction has become a primary goal of providers, thanks in no small part to the Medicare Star Ratings based on patient survey responses.
While Patient Satisfaction Star Ratings are not used to determine reimbursements, they are intended to help patients select home health agencies for their loved ones. Home health agencies that wish to compete in a crowded field are working toward improving their star ratings and patient satisfaction scores, and those efforts will continue.
5. Reduced Hospital Readmissions
Reducing hospital readmissions has become a major priority for CMS, and home health will continue to play a major role in that effort. Agencies across the country have begun implementing pilot programs specifically developed with the intent of reducing readmissions, and more agencies are expected to follow suit in the future.
Changes in the demographics of our nation as well as expectations for aging and the ability to remain at home as long as possible, combined with overall changes to the American health care system, have made the home health care industry ripe for disruption. The entire industry is experiencing changes, some more challenging than others. However, with change comes opportunity, and those agencies that are willing to embrace the future and adopt new models of care have a greater chance of growth and success in the future.
To learn more about tools that can help your agency move into the future and embrace changes, read some of Complia Health’s detailed case studies about agencies that are already embracing technology and moving forward.