Looking Back: 2013 a Year of Change

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

2013 a Year of ChangeI’ve said many times before that change is a constant in the home care industry, and 2013 has been no exception.

Implementing portions of the Affordable Care Act certainly has impacted our industry, as have other decisions at the federal level and a tense political climate where compromise is nearly impossible.

It’s been heartening this year to see example after example of the value that home health services bring to patients who want to age in place. Part of the Affordable Care Act extended the Money Follows the Person program through 2016. The program helps states rebalance their long-term care systems by getting long-term nursing home patients back into community when possible. Home health should be at the table for those discussions.

Medicare’s focus on care transitions also represents an opportunity for agencies. When Medicare Advantage Organizations were asked about how to significantly lower readmission rates, coordination of home health services was among the top priorities.

This year also saw sequestration cuts that hurt reimbursement rates. The industry will continue to be in the cross-hairs as CMS looks to cut costs, but we must take every opportunity to explain the critical role that home care plays in the health of our patients and the health of our industry.

Although the U.S. Department of Labor has issued a final rule changing the definition of “companionship services” in a way that will eliminate some home health services provided under Medicaid, the National Association for Home Care and Hospice continues to lead the fight on this issue. If the final rule is implemented as planned, it could prove problematic to our industry.

And I couldn’t let a look back at 2013 go without mentioning the increased importance of clinical decision support (CDS) at the bedside to improve patient care while reducing agency costs. As more agencies adopt clinical management software that incorporates CDS, and interoperability among care partners using Health Information Exchanges becomes commonplace, the Triple Aim of better individual and population health at lower costs will move closer to reality.

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