In all likelihood, 2020 will go down as one of the most important years in home care history. As other sectors of the healthcare industry continue to adapt to widespread and constant changes caused by COVID-19, the unique and unparalleled benefits of home care in the U.S. have been brought to the forefront.
With over 38% of coronavirus deaths (over 100,000) linked to nursing homes, many patients have come to prefer the safety and comfort of their own homes when receiving healthcare. An increase in digital innovation and adoption has also expanded opportunities to receive home healthcare for these patient populations.
PDGM and Home Health in the COVID-19 Era
Last January 1, 2020, the Patient Driven Groupings Model (PDGM) was officially implemented by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) for home health services. Under PDGM, home healthcare agencies have new financial incentives to examine when continuing care or admitting beneficiaries of Medicare.
The financial incentives include higher rates for beneficiaries admitted after staying as an inpatient in healthcare institutions, such as at skilled nursing facilities or hospitals. On the other hand, lower rates are provided for admitted beneficiaries from the community, such as hospital patients in observation status, hospital outpatients, and beneficiaries who start home care without prior inpatient institutional stay.
However, PDGM, in conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic, has slowed the growth of home healthcare agencies through acquisition. This is mainly because investors, home healthcare agencies, and private equity groups likely assessed the financial impacts of PDGM and the pandemic.
Addressing Staff Shortages
As home care services spike in demand, the talent pool of trained staff to care for patients who need specialized care also shrinks in result. Nearly 10,000 Americans turn 65 years old each day, with life expectancy increasing by 2 years with each passing decade. At this rate, the senior population is expected to double by 2030.
As a result, home care agencies have to improve their recruitment and retention strategies to meet the demands. This means investing in home care marketing services from digital marketing companies. Increasing salaries and benefits, embracing new technology to assist in patient care, and finding new markets to recruit skilled workers.
Cultivating a Healthier Work Environment
As part of the home care industry’s goal is to provide safe and quality care for patients, home healthcare agencies have realized that it is first important to care for their staff. During the pandemic, this means safeguarding the health of caregivers when they provide services for sick patients. It also involves cultivating a workplace culture where caregivers are empowered and rewarded for their efforts. It’s also best that they have clear support and guidance to grow in their careers.
In practical ways, this also entails providing caregivers and staff with benefits such as flexible scheduling and childcare so that employees can live out a healthy and well-rounded work-life balance.
Embracing New Technology in 2021
In light of all of these future trends and benefits in home care, technological innovations are set to emerge in 2021. As patients prefer to heal in the home, the home care industry will see an emergence of remote patient monitoring and virtual visits. While these have also been used in the past (though sparingly), patients are now more accustomed to accessibility. As consumers shop online, bank online, and entertain themselves through online channels — virtual care will be part of the new normal. Even as COVID-19 dissipates in the near future, virtual care models will be here to stay.
Now that patients are online, having a website is also a home care agency’s gateway to the modern-day patient. It not only acts as the face of a home care business in the Internet landscape, but it also serves as an instant service desk where prospects have a ready overview of the solutions an agency offers. With more and more Americans searching online for home care services, a website will make an agency more accessible to their target clients.
However, it is keen to note that the leveraging of technological innovations is still in its infancy. Many experts agree it is here to stay. If anyone had a crystal ball and looked five years into the future, it is highly likely that the home care industry in the U.S. will see home healthcare plans that take a blended or hybrid approach, such as blending virtual and on-site care. Currently, there are many channels that allow home care practitioners to observe or educate a patient remotely.
Home Care Set for Further Growth in 2021
A survey by the AARP revealed that 90% of adults over 65 want to remain in their own homes and communities as they age. This statistic is significant for home care agencies as they benefit from the changing needs of patients all over the U.S.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also indicates that home health and personal care aide positions are expected to become one of the fastest growing occupations in the next 10 years. This is likely due to the effects of the pandemic and the consumers’ shifting preferences to age in place. Many trusted long-term care agencies have also responded to this trend and included home and hospice care into their comprehensive suite of services.
In response to the expected growth, it’s beneficial for home care agencies to tap into new technologies, new markets, and discover new ways to market their business. Whether it’s through a professional website or cultivating a healthy work environment, it has become more crucial than ever for home care agencies to stand out from their competitors.