Let’s not wait until next time

 - 
03/27/2020

I saw some back-and-forth on twitter between HME providers asking what the HME industry is like in Italy and the role it is playing in responding to the coronavirus pandemic there. So it was timely that I also saw an article in STAT about a paper published in NEJM Catalyst by a group of physicians at the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo about what they’ve learned during this pandemic, and it reads like a warning.

“Western health care systems have been built around the concept of patient-centered care, but an epidemic requires a change of perspective toward a concept of community centered care,” they write.

What’s community centered care?

“Pandemic solutions are required for the entire population, not only for hospitals,” they write. “Home care and mobile clinics avoid unnecessary movements and release pressure from hospitals. Early oxygen therapy, pulse oximeters and nutrition care can be delivered to the homes of mildly ill and convalescent patients, setting up a broad surveillance system with adequate isolation and leveraging innovative telemedicine instruments.”

Dan Starck of Apria Healthcare and the Council for Quality Respiratory Care told me last week that the HME industry stands ready to be the “pressure release valve” for acute care facilities. Oxygen therapy, pulse oximeters and nutrition care … HME providers have all that and more covered.

The Italian docs continue: “This approach would limit hospitalization to a focused target of disease severity, thereby decreasing contagion, protecting patients and health care workers, and minimizing consumption of protective equipment.”

The Italian docs concluded that this disaster could have been averted only by massive deployment of outreach services and noted, “we need a long-term plan for the next pandemic.”

That plan, they argue, is to transition away from a “more medicalized and centralized…society”

Weesie Walker of NRRTS says if there’s a silver lining in the current crisis, it’s that home care will be seen in a new way, a better way.

“I’m a very optimistic person, but this (pandemic) has been hard for me,” she said. “I just keep thinking there has to be a lesson we can learn and what I’m hopeful that lesson is, is a spotlight on the value and importance of (CRT and the HME industry). It really speaks to what we’ve been preaching for years. We have dedicated people out there, doing everything they can to still get equipment to people.”