One of the nation’s largest providers of infusion therapy is shifting its attention to the COVID-19 virus and further migrating key health care services into the home.
Illinois-based Option Care Health — which specializes in home and alternate infusion services — is partnering with health systems across the U.S. to transfer patients out of the hospital as quickly as possible. Doing so is essential in the coronavirus battle, as hospital resources are largely being reserved for intensive care and highly acute COVID-19 cases.
Specifically, Option Care Health is working to support hospitals by assisting with the discharge of patients who require infusion therapy. The company is reallocating a portion of its 2,900 clinicians to COVID-19 hotspots to facilitate the delivery of infusion therapy in the home.
Option Care Health operates in all 50 states, primarily serving patients with a wide variety of acute and chronic needs. As part of its model, the company provides treatment for autoimmune disorders, neurological conditions and infections, while also assisting with nutrition support when necessary.
Harriet Booker, the COO of Option Care Health, has been in the home infusion business for the past 25 years. Like many other home-based care providers, her company has seen its services become even more valuable during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Home infusion therapy — and in particular Option Care Health — has a long standing history of working very closely with our hospital partners to facilitate discharge for their patients,” Booker told Home Health Care News. “We’ll be working directly with the hospital to identify those key characteristics that would allow that patient to go home.”
While a patient is in the hospital, Option Care Health works with that individual, his or her insurance provider and the hospital to achieve a safe discharge home. Through a network of compounding pharmacies, the company develops personalized care plans and dispenses customized medicines and supplies and distributes to their home. Once the patient is safely sent home, the company then teaches the patient best practices for self care when a clinician is not physically present.
The ability to discharge patients in a timely and efficient manner is beneficial for all stakeholders, according to Booker.
Coram — a specialty CVS Health branch that delivers infusion therapy services — also recently announced that it was enhancing its existing capacity and capabilities to treat more patients in home-based settings.
Broadly, Option Care Health and Coram’s strategies reflect the growing need to keep seniors in their homes in lieu of hospitals and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). They also reflect the need for policymakers to open their eyes to the risk-reducing and cost-saving benefits of in-home care in general.
Without the option of a home or alternative site to deliver infusion therapy, patients could be in the hospital anywhere from a couple days to a week longer than necessary, Booker said. Apart from faster discharges, the majority of patients also would rather recover in the comfort of their homes rather than a hospital.
“Patients prefer to be in the home or an alternate infusion setting, there’s no doubt about that,” Booker said. “I think that they find that the kind of care that is being provided is also … equal compared to a hospital.”
There are other benefits to being in the home for the treatment as well. Readmission rates and prolonged infection rates improve when a patient is able to get out of the hospital and into a comfortable and controlled environment, Booker said.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) acknowledged this, in part, when it released plans for a home infusion benefit for 2021 last year. While some providers thought that the benefit was not adequate, the idea behind it excited home health providers, who saw it as a new potential avenue to reimbursement.
As to whether CMS will further its support of home-based infusion services in the future, well, that’s what everyone in the industry is wondering, Booker said.
“That’s kind of the crystal-ball question,” Booker said. “I hope that CMS continues to not only evaluate, but take action. [And that it] recognizes the value of home infusion therapy, both from a quality and clinical outcomes standpoint for the patient and for the financial outcomes for our health care community at large.”
Home-based care providers from all different backgrounds are seeing their services come in handy more than ever.
The home infusion industry is no different. The question will be whether CMS recognizes infusion providers for their value during the COVID-19 crisis.