How Home Care Can Win a Role With ACOs

Home care is rapidly changing, opening doors for the industry to become a valuable partner in accountable care organizations (ACOs). While home care isn’t necessarily invited to the ACO table as a matter of course, many companies are positioning themselves for the future by marketing themselves as a driver of cost savings and better health outcomes.

ACOs are typically made up of physician groups or other acute-care providers that earn Medicare payment incentives for collaboratively managing the health of their patient population. While home care may not be Medicare-reimbursed, it can prove its value in keeping patients healthier for lower costs and become a crucial part of the equation.

“Home care can no longer remain as it is in the status quo,” Barbara Knott, executive director of SCAL Home Care and Kaiser Permanente, said at Post Acute Link Care Continuum conference in Chicago in June. “If you still look how you did five years ago, you’re already behind.”

To become more involved in ACOs and become a valuable and attractive partner to other types of health care providers, there are a few things home care agencies can do, according to a panel of experts who spoke on the topic:

  1. Understand your business. Knowing what type of ACO to be a part of is only a piece of the puzzle. A home care owner should know their business inside and out and be able to assess how much risk to take on.
  2. Leverage services with data. Data is especially important to leverage high performing services to other health care providers. Being able to back up lower readmission rates and other important metrics can help an agency stand out as a preferred partner and be a partner ACOs are looking for.
  3. Don’t be everything to everyone. While health care sectors continue to merge, home care agencies don’t necessarily have to the end-all solution to its ACOs and other partners. Instead, having success in one area or service line can be more valuable. ACOs are built of several different providers, which means not all partners need to offer the same programs. Home care companies should stick to a limited area to perform well and offer data underscoring that success.
  4. Build a network. While experts say to keep a limited number of programs to do them well, diversifying through a network of other providers can still be advantageous when it comes to getting involved with ACOs.

Collaborations are Key

To become a part of an ACO, home care can step up through collaborations and network partnerships. By being part of a greater network, even home care companies with relatively few service lines can remain attractive as an ACO partner through collaboration. Rather than viewing other companies as competitors, home care owners should look at potential partnerships instead.

“We don’t consider it to be a competitive environment,” Scott Herman, CEO of Jordan Health Services, said. “We look at the baby boomer curve. Speaking together we are going to make our industry better.” Jordan Health Services provides in-home care to patients in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas and takes both private pay and Medicare/Medicaid patients.

However, being a part of a network also requires different health care providers to have the same mindset in their goals.

“You have to make sure everyone is thinking in the same vein of thought when trying to build something,” said Knott. “No home care agency can manage a community itself.”

Additionally, the value of home care must be fully understood and realized before they will be recognized as a partner in ACOs, experts agreed. The best method to prove value is data. Over the long term, home care will be recognized as a central point of care along the health care continuum, experts hope.

Written by Amy Baxter