Long-Term Care Decision-Makers More Likely to Choose Home Care in COVID-19 Aftermath

Family health care decision-makers have followed the devastating effects that the COVID-19 virus has had on the long-term care facilities. That experience is now pushing them toward home-based care, new data suggests.

Over 50% of family members are now more likely to choose in-home care for their loved ones than they were prior to the coronavirus, according to a recent survey from health care research and consulting firm Transcend Strategy Group.

As part of its survey, Transcend reviewed feedback from about 1,000 respondents, all of whom were family health care decision-makers. Broadly, those decision-makers were more likely to be women between the ages of 40 and 45 years old.

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“One of the biggest takeaways … was that 65% of respondents agreed that COVID-19 had completely changed their perception about the best way to care for aging seniors,” Stan Massey, a partner at Transcend Strategy, said Wednesday during a National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) webinar. “I’ll give you a little spoiler alert: That mind-shift has landed squarely in the favor of home-based care providers.”

Nearly half of survey participants said they had previously considered placing a loved one in a long-term care facility in the future, but have now taken that option off the table.

Additionally, despite the home-based care arena’s own struggles with procuring personal protective equipment (PPE), survey respondents were still overwhelmingly confident that in-home caregivers were following necessary protocols during COVID-19.

In all likelihood, the shift in thinking is not temporary. Within the survey, respondents suggested that their perception of the long-term care options had been changed for good.

“COVID-19 has changed opinions from this point forward,” Massey said. “It had such an impact on families that we feel this ripple effect of really wanting to take every precaution, even if a vaccine for COVID-19 does emerge.”

The concerns are driven, in large part, due to the staggering death toll in facilities across the U.S. Newly released federal statistics show nearly 26,000 people have died from COVID-19 in nursing homes through May.

Family decision-makers’ newfound appreciation of home-based care will likely offer future opportunities for providers looking to grow their businesses.

LHC Group Inc. (LHCG) Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Bruce Greenstein echoed a similar sentiment Tuesday during a presentation at the Jefferies Virtual Healthcare Conference.

“[The coronavirus is going to change] the psyche of the way people are going to view … long-term care facilities for the rest of our generation,” Greenstein said.

Harnessing momentum

In tandem with family members’ bullishness on home-based care is their increased interest in the value of telehealth.

Over 60% of individuals who participated in the Transcend survey said they’re likely to explore telehealth options in the future.

Telehealth claim lines in the U.S. increased 4,347% between March 2019 and March 2020, according to FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker. A claim line is an individual service listed on an insurance claim.

Though the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has not yet authorized the ability for home-based care agencies to be reimbursed for telehealth as they would be for in-person visits, restrictions on remote patient monitoring have been eased. The agency has loosened some of the red tape surrounding virtual care and has encouraged its use during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“When the restrictions started being [removed] off of telehealth, we really thought that it was like letting the genie out of the bottle. And it’s only going to improve from here,” Massey said.

Even if a provider is unable to bill for telehealth services, having good telehealth practices in place could increase the likelihood of a client initiating care plans with them.

“Even if you’re not able to be reimbursed for the delivery of care through telehealth, be thinking holistically about how you deliver adjacent values,” Transcend CEO Stephanie Johnston said on the webinar. “There’s a lot more openness and flexibility within the regulatory framework now for home health providers to get really creative and innovative.”

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