Health Network Saves $5 Million Through Home Care Program

Amid a significant push to reduce hospital readmission rates and as new reimbursement initiatives unfold, one Pennsylvania health network has ramped up its home care program to better streamline its services, saving millions of dollars in the process.

Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network (AHN) launched its Healthcare@Home program last year. Since then, AHN boosted its service offerings and post-acute connections, resulting in approximately $5 million in savings from avoided hospital readmissions within a month of discharge, Bill Gammie, president of home health, hospice and palliative care at AHN, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In 2015, Medicare penalized hospitals a total of $428 million, or 3% of their total reimbursement, for readmissions within a month of being sent home, the Post-Gazette reported. This figure is up from $227 million, or 2% of total reimbursement, in 2014. And with a change in Medicare payments for joint replacement surgeries at Pittsburgh-area hospitals coming in April 2016, collaboration is proving more crucial than ever.

“This is not just about getting them to walk again, but how can we get them to stay in the home they love,” Vicki Hoak, executive director of the trade group Pennsylvania Homecare Association, told the newspaper. “The bottom line is that it’s all about communicating.”

Indeed, new partnerships are driving the program’s success. Healthcare@Home first connected with Celtic Healthcare Inc., a home health and hospice provider serving Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland, effectively creating the second-largest such provider in the region. From there, it partnered with UPMC Home Nursing Agency, followed by Johns Hopkins Home Care Group to acquire a majority stake in Ford City-based Klingensmith HealthCare, along with its expertise in home care and medical equipment.

AHN’s acquisition of St. Vincent Health System in 2012, as well, bolstered the provider’s capability to administer medications intravenously at home, rounding out the program’s suite of home care services. The program also works with skilled nursing facilities to ensure patients receive specialized care they can’t receive at home.

The result—a decrease in hospital readmissions among AHN’s home care patients since the program’s launch, from 19% to 14%.

“This kind of stuff—it’s cutting-edge,” Brian Holzer, a physician who oversees AHN’s Healthcare@Home program as senior vice president of diversified businesses, told the Post-Gazette.

Written by Kourtney Liepelt