Home Health: Driving Care in the Right Direction

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Former Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, McKesson (Retired)

Home Health Agencies are Driving Healthcare in the Right DirectionLate last year, The Commonwealth Fund published a study on health reform asking whether better care at lower cost is possible. As you might expect, the answer was a qualified “yes.” If everyone gets on the right road (government, private insurers, providers) and we get the payment models right, costs should start to come down.

But what interests me about the study is that home healthcare is at the heart of solving the problems that have caused costs to rise so precipitously. The report authors begin by looking at all the major factors contributing to high costs.

  • Poorly coordinated care. When providers fail to communicate, especially during transitions, costly events like redundant tests, adverse drug reactions and misdiagnoses occur more frequently. The authors rightly note that the chronically ill are most at risk for poorly coordinated care. Of course, home health providers excel at managing chronically ill patients, facilitating transitions and lessening issues arising from poor care-coordination.
  • Avoidable readmissions. The report notes that one in five elderly patients discharged from U.S. hospitals is readmitted within 30 days. The authors recommend the types of services home health agencies frequently provide, including helping patients follow post-surgical instructions, schedule and keep follow-up appointments, and adhere to prescribed medications.
  • Lack of right care/right place. Several other factors are noted by the report authors, including too much care, high prices and the way providers are paid. Perhaps more than any other provider, home health executives know the importance of providing care in the right setting. For the chronically ill, that place is often the home rather than the physician’s office or the hospital.

The report recommends new payment models such as bundled payments, global payments and ACOs as ways to get more value from our healthcare dollars. Once again, this dovetails with how home health agencies add value to the healthcare system. Finally, the report mentions technology as a way to focus healthcare resources where they’re most needed — a sign pointing directly at expanding telehealth activities.

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