Home Health’s Many Faces: How Niche Services Drive Business Success

A new profile series launched by The Alliance for Home Health Quality and Innovation showcases the diversity of home health patients, and highlights how providers must—and are—adapting business practices to serve distinct demographics.

Each part of the four-part Faces of Home Health series looks at a unique population within home health using interviews, data, and patient stories.

One part of the series examines cultural, racial and ethnic diversity in home health, and another zeroes in on caring for patients with behavioral health issues. The series also examines caring for frail elderly patients in the home, as well as caring for pediatric patients and family caregivers.

“The goal of these stories is to illustrate that home health care is providing a high value of services, particularly to certain populations that are more vulnerable,” Teresa Lee, executive director of Alliance for Home Health Quality and Innovation, tells HHCN. The Alliance is a nonprofit that provides research on the value of home health care.

“Home health agencies are able to offer services to these populations that can be challenging for many other parts of the health care industry to serve,” she said.

The series also reflects the changing health care landscape, in which health care systems are placing an increasing emphasis on value.

“With these new models of care—where there is going to be a focus on Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), bundled payment arrangements and other new models—the question becomes, how do we provide better care and lower per capita cost of care?” she says. “Home health agencies that are able to show they have a unique team to manage [the most vulnerable] patients are demonstrating a really smart strategy.”

For example, the series shines a light on Amedisys’ Empowered for Life program, which targets the specific and unique needs of patients with behavioral health issues. Amedisys, Inc. (Nasdaq:AMED) is a Louisiana-based home health agency that serves about 360,000 patients each year.

While most behavioral health issues are often categorized as dementia- and psychiatric-related, the program acknowledges the prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders, Elizabeth Gregory, Ph.D., director of behavioral health at Amedisys, tells the Alliance.

Another profile highlights Oakland, Calif.-based Asian American Home Care (AAHC)—part of the Harden Healthcare Family of Companies. The AAHC staff, as a group, speaks more than nine different languages and dialects in order to communicate well with their patients.

Other stories reveal how home care workers educate family caregivers to ensure care is properly handled when the health care agency isn’t there.

“What these profiles have in common is that they’re highlighting how home health agencies have become experts in dealing with particularly vulnerable populations,” Lee says, noting that home health clients tend to be pooerer than the general Medicare population. “Not only do they present challenges of being a different type of patient in terms of behavioral health or ethnicity, but on top of that more often than not home health patients tend to have a lower income. That’s an important point to drive home to our policy makers.”

Access the series here.