In late October, the Alliance for Home Health Quality and Innovation (AHHQI) released the findings from their Future of Home Care study. The report detailed the group’s vision for home health care going forward, noting that over the next few decades, the home is likely to become the center of home health care delivery.
With that in mind, AHHQI outlined what they believe will be the four pillars of the future of home health care going forward. By focusing on these pillars, home health agencies can better meet the challenges of an ever-changing health care system, and more effectively fulfill their obligation to patients and their families.
The 4 Pillars in Detail
The four pillars for the future of home health care, as identified by the AHHQI are clear and straightforward, and offer a simple road map for agency planning.
Pillar #1: Provide care that is person-centered, respectful, and responsive to individual patient needs.
The need to individualize health care has been a growing priority over the years. While meeting the goals of the medical care plan is always the priority, that goal leaves room for meeting specific patient needs and preferences. Home health care providers are being charged with working with clients and their families to ensure that the care being provided, from administering medication to providing personal care services, is done with respect to the client’s preferences.
This might mean anything from preparing food using a specific recipe to adding extra touches like bubbles and music to a bath. Home health care clients should not feel as if they are just another appointment, but instead be treated with dignity and respect. For many home health agencies this will require a redefinition of person or patient-centered care, as well as the development of specific measurement indicators to monitor and improve its effectiveness.
Pillar #2: Provide care that is seamlessly connected and coordinated.
Care coordination is a significant priority across the health care spectrum, and several studies, including the AHHQI report, have found that home health agencies can play an important role in coordinating care for Medicare beneficiaries. With the focus on quality of care and the shift toward value-based payments and care, the need for the entire care team to communicate and work together has increased. Because home health care providers generally work with patients after acute health events, or in the management of chronic conditions, they are in a unique position to take the lead in care coordination. For instance, home health providers can serve as a conduit of information between the patient and providers, sharing information that can prove valuable in reducing readmissions and improving the overall delivery of care.
Pillar #3: Prioritize quality.
As mentioned previously, CMS has made the delivery of quality care a priority, as evidenced by the transition to value-based payments and the new star rating systems of agency quality to help consumers make informed decisions. While most patients who use home health services are older, have several chronic conditions, and lack a strong support system, the onus is still on home health agencies to deliver high-quality care.
This means being flexible to the needs of the patient population and embarking on internal initiatives that will ensure high-quality care, including identifying and correcting deficiencies and focusing on hiring policies that attract top-level employees. Agencies also need to be prepared to care for a wide variety of patient types, while also having the ability to provide specialized care for certain clinical conditions, such as heart failure, COPD, and joint replacements. This will ensure that agencies are able to meet the requirements of condition-specific bundled payments.
Pillar #4: Be technology enabled.
The AHHQI report highlights the importance of implementing technological solutions to provide personalized, intensive, and high-quality services to patients.
Resources such as advanced home health software and telemedicine allow for more streamlined connections between patients and their providers, improving the quality of care.
However, the report also notes that some agencies may face challenges in implementing technology, since Medicare does not reimburse for health information technology and many agencies are already facing significant financial constraints. Despite those challenges, agencies are going to have to adopt new technologies if they want to remain viable and capable of delivering the care that patients expect.
The AHHQI predicts that in the coming years, home health providers are going to be called upon to fulfill a wider variety of functions within the delivery of health care, including home-based primary care, “hospital at home” care, care coordination and management, and working with a wider variety of patients. By focusing on the four pillars, an agency will be able to provide both quality care, and meet these obligations as necessary.
As you assess your agency’s position within the four pillars, Complia Health can be a valued partner. Check out some of our resources to learn more about how our advanced technology can help your agency now and well into the future, and provide better quality care more efficiently.