Today, new payment models that reward coordinated care are incentivizing home health agencies to forge partnerships with hospitals and other health care providers. In the future, home health companies might be working out deals with private sector companies such as Peapod or Uber, which already are helping seniors age in place by harnessing innovative technology.
At least, that’s the perspective of Bruce Chernof, M.D., one of the nation’s foremost experts on senior care and aging issues. He headed up the Congressional Long-Term Care Commission, which in 2013 turned in a 130-page report with recommendations on how to revamp the delivery and financing of long-term services and supports in the United States. He currently is president and CEO of The SCAN Foundation, one of the largest organizations in the country dedicated to promoting high-quality services for seniors.
Chernof recently sat down with HHCN to share his thoughts on the recent White House Conference on Aging, a once-a-decade event bringing thought leaders together to discuss ways to improve seniors’ quality of life. The conversation turned to what “Home Health 2.0” might look like and how agencies can get there.
HHCN: The White House Conference on Aging took place Monday. Do you think it was a success?
Bruce Chernof: I thought it was particularly good that the president spoke, and as forcefully as he did, about the need to think about aging in the U.S. Aging generally is one of those issues that doesn’t get the kind of attention it needs to in Washington. The previous White House conference, the president didn’t attend at all. So White House visibility is an important part of the discussion.
It really took a different tack than previous conferences. At its core, the underlying theme was to reimagine how we think about aging in this country. I think that’s important, because often the discussion goes immediately to the poverty discussion, the ‘sick, poor and alone’ discussion, and we get deep in the weeds of Medicaid policy and those programs are incredibly important for the most vulnerable among us.
But the reality is, we’re all going to age and the vast majority of us will have needs as we age. That doesn’t necessarily mean nursing home care. It could be in the community or in an assisted living environment, a whole range of things, but we need to see aging as a positive thing, a part of life. The conference really showed the value of that broader discussion.
And it was great to see leaders from private industry, from technology companies, to see senior execs from Airbnb and Uber talking about how they view the importance of the aging population and how they view their products evolving to meet the needs of an aging country.
HHCN: I know Uber announced a new pilot to work with senior living communities. Are companies like Uber also making an impact on home health?
BC: Given the really interesting and broad mix of industry and technology, the diverse partners that the White House conference brought to the table, it raised the question: What does a technology-enabled environment look like?
Home Health 2.0 is a much broader discussion of technology and care coordination. There’s a much broader way to imagine the home health provider as the glue to drive better outcomes, lower costs. What does the next evolution of that model look like? What is there connectivity to an Uber of the world? What is their connectivity to a technology like wearable devices? Or a grocery delivery service like Peapod. It’s this sort of broader connectivity that is the future, not a narrow, “Hi, I’m your home health provider and I’m here to provide X service, because it’s what your doctor prescribed.”
HHCN: So you envision home health providers contracting and coordinating with companies like Peapod or Uber to offer a broader array of services to clients, including transportation and food delivery?
BC: Are there opportunities for larger relationships? Yes. Those will take time to develop. But today, there’s already lots a home health provider can do to help a senior thrive in the community.
HHCN: Specifically by working with these sorts of tech companies?
BC: It’s not about spending the home health dollar, necessarily. But even now, when a home health caregiver is in somebody’s home, they’ll have a sense about whether folks have transportation issues, whether they have food needs. They have the opportunity to talk to the individual or family members, pointing people to different options like Uber, Peapod. Then, they can make their own decision about connecting with these services. That’s the Home Health 1.0 step.
I think it’s where everything in the space needs to go, whether you’re a medical, housing, home health, or community provider, care coordination and connectivity will be where the biggest opportunity is in next five to ten years.
HHCN: And it seems that the Ubers of the world also are seeing the opportunity to become a more important piece in the senior care puzzle?
BC: There’s a huge role for the business sector, and I think the White House conference really put a spotlight on this. We need the next generation of tech solutions to be not so focused on Millennials and Gen-X’ers. And technology companies are seeing the economic value and market opportunity that older adults represent.
HHCN: What are some of the senior-focused solutions that are needed?
BC: It’s not just about canes and walkers for physical support anymore, but tech for safer homes, transportation, the kinds of supports that will help people live with dignity, choice and independence.
Written by Tim Mullaney