Home-based hospital care has been a hot topic ever since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) unveiled its “Acute Hospital Care at Home” initiative in November. Seemingly every time the concept is mentioned, Mount Sinai Health System’s name comes up.
The New York-city based health system launched Mount Sinai at Home in 2014 as part of its offerings, with the help of a three-year CMS Innovation Center grant.
During the COVID-19 crisis, the program has been more relevant than ever, as the health system has worked to free up beds in its eight hospitals by treating patients at home.
Now, Mount Sinai has paired with Boston-based Current Health — a remote patient monitoring platform — to help keep an eye on cancer patients at their homes.
“Sinai prides itself on being an innovator and leading the field,” Dr. Cardinale Smith, the chief quality officer for cancer services for Mount Sinai, told Home Health Care News. “And this is no different. And I think it’s because we were already in this area that when the pandemic happened, we were able to pivot much more quickly.”
At the onset of the public health emergency, Mount Sinai’s long-touted dedication to home-based care allowed them to simply accelerate.
Current Health’s platform monitors patients throughout the day, enabling physicians and nurses to provide enhanced virtual care for high-risk patients at home. Cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy are at an increased risk for infection because they’re immunocompromised.
That’s why it’s far safer for oncology patients to receive care wherever they live.
Mount Sinai was able to pay for Current Health’s services through a large grant provided by the CARES Act. Broadly, governmental grants have helped home-based care companies across the country adopt innovative technologies over the last year.
“Patients with cancer are often immunocompromised. In general, we would like to keep them out of hospitals, if we can,” Dr. Smith said. “And in particular during this pandemic, where they are at higher risk, we want to minimize exposure. Being able to really treat them in place is important to make sure that we maintain their health and safety for as long as we possibly can.”
Christopher McCann, the CEO and co-founder of Current Health, said that patients are noticeably more interested in home-based care options of late. The company established a relationship with Mount Sinai specifically because of its innovative approach to care.
Current Health — a company that began growing its model in the U.K. before crossing the Atlantic — has grown by 3,000% since the beginning of 2020. It now has 400% more customers than it did before last year, which is evidence to back up McCann’s home-based care observations.
Its platform combines health monitoring, data and AI-powered analytics to help health care providers realize when they need to take action with a patient. Current Health has also partnered with the Mayo Clinic and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which is part of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“Two or three years ago, everyone believed that the home was the future and that there would be this kind of unbundling of the hospital with more health care services delivered at home.,” McCann told HHCN. “But it was celebrating a future vision. No one was really sure how fast that would happen. This year, every single health system that I speak to — and I speak to 10 health systems per day — is prioritizing moving health care into the home.”
The U.S. has been a laggard among developed countries when it comes to delivering cancer care at home. But that is beginning to change.
Earlier this month, CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) announced that it had partnered with the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) to begin providing chemotherapy services in the home.
Delivering cancer care at home has a wide variety of benefits, some of which were mentioned above. But especially during the pandemic — when disadvantaged populations have often gotten the short end of the stick — it is helping expand access to appropriate care.
Individuals who are socioeconomically disadvantaged are less likely to try video visits during the pandemic and more likely to travel to brick-and-mortar locations for care. Current Health’s
platform helps keep them in their home with regular check-ins from physicians and nurses.
“We have many patients who are socioeconomically disadvantaged,” Dr. Smith said. “And particularly, that burden falls to our black and hispanic patients.”
“We don’t have enough data to say for sure yet, but we think this will help,” she added. “One of the reasons why we picked this platform specifically is because they do provide a tablet in the home to the patient, as well as a hub to enhance WiFi and give some broadband data access to those who don’t have it.”
Hospitals are realizing that they need to move further into the home — and sooner rather than later. To do so, they’ll need help, likely from home health and home care agencies, as well as tech vendors such as Current Health.
But there’s no longer an excuse to not be increasing at-home services for patients.
“I do think that the thing this pandemic has shown us is that we have technology to do this, and we should use it,” Dr. Smith said. “We’ve learned that these things are possible. … And just from a bigger perspective, these are [innovative] conversations that have to happen concurrently to be able to change the landscape of care delivery.”
Mount Sinai did one video visit in January 2020. In March, they did 3,500.
Still, remote patient monitoring for cancer care in the home is in its infancy. Additionally, patients are often unaware of the home-based offerings available to them.
“The place where these devices have been used primarily is in the primary care setting, usually for high blood pressure management,” Dr. Smith said. “Patients are much less aware of these types of offerings. We have a pretty robust hospital-at-home system, and so this is also an adjunct to that, and [another step] to really being able to treat patients in place in their home.”