The strain the COVID-19 virus has placed on U.S. hospitals is shining a light on the need for home- and community-based care.
That’s according to former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who is also the founder and CEO of The Daschle Group. The former congressman discussed home-based care and other topics during a recent Home Health Care News webinar, sponsored by WellSky.
“With hospitals being stretched to the brink in some locations and patients being told to stay at home, we are seeing a change in how people will consume health care,” Daschle, who served in the Senate as a Democrat from South Dakota, said during the webinar. “The home health workforce is essential in addressing this pandemic — from helping people safely stay in their homes to helping others transition out of the hospital.”
As of May 8, there had been over 1.3 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S., with nearly 78,000 deaths.
Daschle’s comments are in line with those of many home health and home care providers, who have repeatedly reiterated the importance of in-home care and its ability to provide relief to hospitals dealing with over-capacity challenges during the public health emergency.
Despite advantages, due to the personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage and a reduction in elective procedures, many home-based care providers have experienced a drop in new admissions and visit volume.
In March, there was a dramatic decrease in the number of people receiving care. That slowly began to turn around in April, but not to the same levels prior to the COVID-19 virus, according to WellSky CEO Bill Miller.
“There is some optimism abounding,” Miller said during the webinar. “We are relaxing some of the pressure on the health system. As elective procedures get released, we are going to see some of that volume start coming back.”
Nationally, there is a growing awareness of the benefits of in-home care, Miller noted. That awareness is likely to grow for the foreseeable future, especially as the health care sector takes on a more value-based approach.
WellSky is an international software and professional services company with clients that include home health providers, hospital systems, blood banks, labs, hospices, government agencies and human services organizations.
As hospitals become sources of cross-contamination during the COVID-19 emergency, the home setting has a natural advantage over some other forms of care, according to Daschle.
“Italian doctors … have recommended orienting COVID care to be community-centric care rather than hospital-centric to avoid hospitals becoming a primary source of COVID transmission,” he said.
Previously, physicians in Italy found that the country’s hospital-centric focus exacerbated the spread of the COVID-19 virus, according to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
During the webinar, the panel also touched on the impact home care interventions can have on health care costs, generally. For individuals with functional limitations, for example, home care interventions have been shown to lower health care spending by hundreds of dollars per month, according to information presented by ClearCare.
“This supports a very strong case for expanded state and national reimbursement frameworks for home-based care, in particular, in a value-based context,” Geoff Nudd, CEO and founder of ClearCare, said during the webinar.
ClearCare, a WellSky company, is a technology platform that serves over 4,000 personal care agencies.
Similar to home health agencies, personal care agencies have seen a roughly 13.5% global aggregate decline in volumes since the beginning of March, ClearCare data shows.
“The most precipitous decline was between mid-March and mid-April,” Nudd said. “That’s really flattened out over the last few weeks.”
On the policy side, changing the home versus acute care paradigm is key to elevating the role of both home health and personal care, according to Daschle.
“Policymakers have been reluctant to do so because of rightful concerns relating to how best to regulate and optimize such care when no one is ‘watching,’ per se,” Daschle said. “I would encourage policymakers to broaden their view of care settings and make use of the tools and technology available … to advance policy that enables high-quality and transparent care in the home.”