Another home health provider is turning to telehealth — and it’s hoping the move will drive further growth.
American Homecare Health Services (AHHS), a Los Angeles-based home health agency, recently decided to adopt a telehealth solution to help expand its census and differentiate itself from area competitors. AHHS decision-makers also believed telehealth would better serve its patient population under the Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM).
Originally founded in 2000, AHHS is a part of SnF Management, a privately owned company that operates 49 nursing homes.
While some providers are using Federal Communications Commission (FCC) grants to help pay for telehealth services, AHHS is reaching into its own pockets.
In the end, if telehealth drives referrals and helps expand its census, the investment will be worth it, Reggie Rodriguez, AHHS VP of home- and community-based services, told Home Health Care News.
As of mid-August, the provider’s census was around 115 patients per day.
“We do believe [it will pay for itself]. We absolutely are convinced of that when it comes to the outcomes that the patients will achieve,” Rodriguez said. “We’ll be able to see our readmission rate reduced and hopefully be best in class in this market. We also believe that we will be able to leverage more referrals as a result of that.”
To find a way to stand out from the field, AHHS turned to telehealth vendor Health Recovery Solutions (HRS).
Hoboken, New Jersey-based HRS provides home health agencies with remote monitoring platforms that allow clinicians to collect and manage patient data. Its platforms come complete with blood pressure monitors, scales and pulse oximeters, with HRS also providing logistics management and patient support.
AHHS has appointed one nurse as a “telehealth champion” who will be at the helm of its remote services team. Using the HRS platform, patients are able to text, call or video the nurse directly.
Additionally, all telehealth patients will receive 4G tablets and Bluetooth biometric monitoring devices, which is how they record their daily vital signs and access their individualized care plans.
As a part of the HRS dashboard, AHHS patients have access to medication reminders, symptom surveys and educational videos, among other tools.
The telehealth champion’s job will be to reach out and “touch” the patients, especially early on.
“She’s going to reach out and touch them every day for two weeks straight. That’s kind of the model that we’ve created,” Rodriguez said. “There may be some that require more than that. But we think in those two weeks, by touching them every day, we’ll get them through the training-wheel period, until they’ve got enough confidence to be able to operate the tablet and the biometrics on their own.”
AHHS has grown its overall census by 10% since the COVID-19 crisis began, but Rodriguez thinks that number could have been higher without the virus.
In addition to strategic marketing outreach, it believes that the HRS partnership is going to help grow that census further over the next year.
And it’s all a part of the company’s PDGM plan, too. With therapy visits no longer being incentivized in the new payment model, telehealth is a way to keep patients healthy without exhausting resources like agencies had to under the Prospective Payment System (PPS).
“HRS and other telemonitoring systems help the agency … increase the manpower that the clinicians have for treating the patients,” Trisha Riosh, the quality assurance supervisor for AHHS, told HHCN. “And instead of having just ‘X’ amount of visits, they also have their telehealth data to pull from in between those visits.”
Plus, that constant contact helps with care planning overall, Riosh said.
On its end, HRS is still seeing increased interest from home health agencies due to the COVID-19 virus and its subsequent effects on the health care continuum.
The company had an initial wave of purchases and new sign-ups, then another after the FCC grants became available, Jarrett Bauer, CEO and co-founder of Health Recovery Solutions, told HHCN.
“We are still seeing [interest] on our side, and a lot of that has to do with their grant funding being available for this,” Bauer said. “There’s still uneasiness about going into the hospital. And people are looking at home care as the best way … to stop a [negative health] event from happening.”
A $10 million Series B funding announced in September 2019 has helped support HRS while it has taken on new clients.
The company also recently launched a COVID-19 recovery plan, which is designed to support agencies who are caring for patients who have the virus but are staying at home.
“It’s important that our clients have not only the right technology but also the right clinical content to help guide the care for this challenging cohort of patients,” Patty Upham, VP of clinical services at HRS, said in a press release announcing the new plan. “The COVID-19 Recovery Care Plan is designed to give clinicians critical data and information to effectively manage their patients, but equally to educate patients about their condition so they can be more active participants in their own care.”