Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Amedisys, Inc. (Nasdaq: AMED) has launched its second nationwide clinical program, this time centered on chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) care in the home setting. COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and a significant chunk of Amedisys’ patient census and referral base.
“A big piece of our referrals are COPD [patients],” Amedisys CEO Paul Kusserow told Home Health Care News.
In 2016, Amedisys (Nasdaq:AMED) treated more than 60,000 COPD patients. The new program is the second example of the home health care and hospice provider launching company-wide initiatives to take on disease-specific care and combat hospitalizations for some of the costliest patients.
Patient empowerment methodology
The cost to develop the program is built into Amedisys’ overall clinical budget, according to Kusserow, who explained that the payoff lies in the referral opportunities the program can bring to the company.
“It gives our care coordinators and our business development [team] a lot to have a conversation with our referral sources,” Kusserow said. “Our belief is the more specialities you create within specific areas that are really needed by the patient population, the more those referrals drive your volumes and the more you can have control of specific volumes where you specialize in.”
As part of the offering, patients and caregivers are given a COPD toolkit and personalized care plan, in conjunction with physician orders. Home health patients are encouraged to make lifestyle changes to identify and treat COPD symptoms, as well as manage medication and therapies. The goal is to reduce exacerbations and decrease anxiety, according to the company.
The program operates with a “patient empowerment methodology,” an approach that enables patients to successfully monitor and manage their own COPD-related symptoms.
This structure is similar to its heart failure program, which Amedisys launched earlier this year. Clinical education for the new COPD program began in early July, and has since been integrated into the company’s new-hire orientation, according to Susan Sender, Amedisys senior vice president and chief clinical officer.
The program has been rolled out in all the states in which Amedisys operates, according to the company.
“[Through these clinical programs], we’ve been able to really drive down readmissions substantially, and this is something that’s important for us,” Kusserow said. “Our clinicians really like the fact that we can give them tools for disease-specific protocols. That’s something they really gravitate toward.”
The COPD program is “interdisciplinary and evidence-based” and was developed per guidelines established by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease’s Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 2017 Report, which is considered the industry standard for treating COPD, according to Sender.
Additionally, the program has integrated protocols to treat COPD exacerbations at home, prevent subsequent events and avoid hospitalization, explained Sender.
Through the COPD program, patients will ultimately learn to monitor their symptoms and document personal progress on a checklist, and are educated by caregivers on breathing techniques, airway clearance and personal energy conservation.
Success of the program is based on patient outcomes, including decreasing shortness of breath and reducing avoidable re-hospitalization, according to Shannon Abbot, vice president of clinical programs at Amedisys.
“The end goal [is to empower] patients to take charge of their own disease treatment,” Abbot told HHCN in an e-mail.
Written by Carlo Calma
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect that Amedisys has rolled out the COPD program across its operations.