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There's value in hospital-in-home in post-pandemic environment

There's value in hospital-in-home in post-pandemic environment

COVID-19 imposed massive changes to the world throughout 2020. It rocked the health care world, in particular, bringing facilities to capacity and many would-be patients to avoid hospitals because of their perceived risk of contracting the virus. The public health crisis amounted to 41% of Americans delaying or avoiding care by the end of June 2020(1). With 32% of deferments for routine health care and 12% for urgent or emergency care, chronic conditions place patients at a higher risk for severe health complications. It has necessitated a different approach to administering health care to those with chronic health conditions that would typically require intervention early on to help treat. When we talk of adults with chronic diseases, we refer to the large group of Americans managing the effects of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and asthma. According to data from the CDC, 60% of adults in America have at least one chronic disease, while 40% have two or more(2). As the leading causes of death and disability, treatment of these conditions would have fallen by the wayside if patients and the health care industry could not turn to a hospital-at-home program. 

As the American population continues to age, with 56 million Americans at 65 years or older in 2020, the need for better chronic condition care is becoming paramount. The industry of home care was expected in 2019 to grow from its 100 billion USD in 2016 to 225 billion USD by 2024(3). However, many of these predictions came before the pandemic. We are now left to wonder where that prediction may be as the validity and efficacy of home health have significantly improved following the public health crisis.

Due to the fear of infection, many Americans favored home health options. The convenience of telehealth was cited as one of the leading reasons that patients enjoyed the alternative. Specifically, 40% of those surveyed by Accenture about their experiences using a telehealth option during the pandemic stated that digital health tools were more convenient than traditional, in-person health(4). The other remarkable finding is that, according to the 2,700 respondents, “60% of patients want to use technology more for communicating with health care providers and managing their conditions.(5)”

The logic follows that if the care patients are seeking is more convenient, they are more likely to use it, and when patients are more likely to use a service that benefits their health, they will experience better health outcomes. This reasoning is why some experts are optimistic about the future of chronic care management in the post-pandemic world of home health(6). The access to care equaled to that administered in a hospital increases as these programs become well-developed and utilized more. There is also significant evidence to suggest that this level of care results in better public health, lower costs and decreased readmissions, which is better for patient and provider experiences(7). Especially for accountable care organizations, which are liable for preventable readmissions, home health care stands to be a valuable tool in helping these organizations save money and avoid Medicare penalties(8).

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that home health care looks to be the future of health care, especially as more companies continue to pioneer this space with more advanced technologies that can bring the level of quality received in a brick-and-mortar hospital home. Home health care will not entirely replace hospitals, but as home health care becomes ubiquitous, hospitals will transition to being a place for the critically ill(9). As we move forward into this future, more and more conditions, especially chronic conditions, will move to the comfort of home, which will only benefit everyone involved in giving and receiving care.

Debbie Fisher, RN, MHA, is the COO for NavCare. She has more than 30 years of experience in the health care field and more than 15 years serving in senior-level management positions in-home health and chronic care management roles.










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