How One Agency Uses Data to Drive Success

As health care services transition to the digital age, one of the most essential elements of a successful home health agency is its ability to track, capture and share data that shows improving patient health outcomes.

Data can prove savings and make a home health agency a valuable partner in the health system, says Marvin Javellana, CEO and and founder of Des Plaines, Illinois-based Better Care Home Health, Inc. Indeed, to thrive in the current health care climate that continues to emphasize and reward cost savings initiatives, data is the name of the game.

“If there are any home health [agencies] not on EMR (electronic medical records), I don’t know how they operate,” Javellana told Home Health Care News.

Better Care utilizes Axxess, a home health agency management software that enables Javellana’s clinical team to streamline their assessments, home visits and care notes. Because of Axxess data and data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Javellana can compare his patient outcomes against national and local averages.

This is the approach Javellana has taken to position his company as a preferred provider, partnering with hospitals and nursing homes to transition some of the highest acuity patients into the home setting.

“I just have to show the bean counters how to quantify it,” Javellana told HHCN.

The data point that most health systems—particularly hospitals—pay the most attention to is hospital readmission rates for patients. CMS began penalizing hospitals with excessive readmission rates or unsafe discharges by reducing payments in 2012. In the years since, readmission rates have risen to the forefront of cost savings initiatives, driving partnerships with home health agencies.

As CMS continues to incentivize cost savings beyond hospital readmission rates by focusing on more specific procedures, home health agencies with more data to show how they can take care of patients once they leave acute care settings will be better off when it comes to securing referral partners.

Beyond Readmission Rates

With a forward-thinking approach to business, Javellana has already taken part in an accountable care organization (ACO) to share in cost savings with other health care organizations, including hospital systems. After a successful initiation into the ACO realm, Better Care is seeking additional similar opportunities. The means to that end, says Javellana, is harnessing health outcomes through data.

Lower readmission rates are a critical arm of Better Care’s ability to prove its value as a preferred partner with hospital systems and nursing homes, but it’s not the only piece of data that can increase referrals.

In fact, when Better Care began to take on higher acuity patients, the company’s average hospital readmission rate matched the Illinois average, around 16% at the time. Over time, Better Care has dropped their hospital readmission rate closer to 11%. For a hospital partner, the savings on those rate discrepancies can be as much as $3 million, according to Javellana.

A figure that is perhaps just as important as the hospital rates to health system partners are the number of visits a home health agency will conduct. For example, the average number of visits per patient a home health agency conducts in Illinois is 29 for certain types of care, according to Javellana. Better Care has a lower average, around 21.1 visits per patient.

“For 21 visits, [Better Care] can get the patient better instead of 29,” Javellana told HHCN. “They’re saving a lot more money with me and the results are better. That alone, that number, is a telltale sign.”

While Better Care now has the results to prove their ability to achieve cost savings, the foundation of the data points—and success—lies what in Javellana calls his “kick-butt clinical team.” By taking on some of the highest acuity patients, Better Care has recruited a high-end nursing staff that is able to take care of some of the toughest patients.

While the company originally sought out referral partners aggressively to adapt to shifting health care incentives coming down from CMS, Better Care has since built a reputation of clinical strength that, in turn, aids in recruiting and retaining the type of necessary staff. Without the staff, the data wouldn’t be as powerful, says Javellana.

Written by Amy Baxter