One of the largest companies in the U.S. has carved out significant space for at-home care innovation.
That company is Cardinal Health Inc. (NYSE: CAH), which has let Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions pave its own way in a budding home-based care market. The company – which posted over $160 billion in revenue last year – has identified its at-home business as a “growth business.”
“There’s a lot of smaller businesses nested within Cardinal, and some are considered growth businesses, and that includes at-home solutions,” Dr. Philip Parks, the VP of health care innovation for Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions, told Home Health Care News. “These are segments that are primarily in areas of health care that are growing, rather than plateauing or shrinking.”
Parks onboarded at Cardinal Health in 2020, tasked with putting together a new team to lead the at-home business unit on a new growth trajectory. Last year, that team was put in place.
He is also a board observer for the hospital-at-home enabler Medically Home and a visiting scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Prior to Cardinal Health, Parks worked at the Boston-based Exact Sciences, where he was the senior director of health care transformation.
The Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health serves nearly 90% of U.S. hospitals, as well as over 60,000 U.S. pharmacies and 10,000 specialty physician offices and clinics. It also provides more than 3.4 million patients with over 46,000 home health care products.
Outside of the durable medical equipment (DME) business, its digital ecosystem, which is designed to support medication adherence, has reached more than 23 million patients. It has likewise worked with over 60 payers.
On its own, Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions services more than 3 million patients per year, both on a direct-to-consumer basis and on a business-to-business basis, with hospitals and home-based care agencies.
“Even over the last 15 to 20 years – but more rapidly over the last couple – there’s been increasing efforts around bringing more care in the home,” Parks said. “So that’s really the foundation strategically for the at-home solutions business, which is not just about home care, home health or hospice, but the strategic belief that more care in the home, across the continuum, is really the megatrend that we believe strongly in.”
Parks added that it’s not an “either-or” trend, but instead an “and” one. For instance, hospitals will be honed in on in-patient acute care while making sure patients can get back to their homes as soon as possible, or stay there for as long as possible.
At the same time, home-based care agencies will benefit from that complementary trend, he said.
“We strongly believe that the home continues to be validated from a patient perspective, from a provider perspective and even from a health system and payer perspective,” Parks said. “It’s a destination where many levels of care can be accomplished, whether they be in person or enhanced with virtual- and technology-enabled care.”
The ‘shift’ to home
Cardinal Health believes there’s no going back, that the megatrend that is care moving to the home is the “new normal.”
But that megatrend isn’t going to come to fruition on its own.
“It’s going to continue to incrementally advance,” Parks said. “With innovation, strategy and reimbursement models that support more care in the home.”
Without that innovation, broad and bold predictions – such as the suggestion that $265 billion worth of care services could shift to the home by 2025 – are more “provocative statements than predictions,” Parks said.
In order to succeed in that new normal, Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions is positioning itself as more than a provider of DME – as a company that harnesses the tide and lifts all those home-based care provider boats with it.
“Our team is heavily focused on thinking about a strategic view of what needs to be done to make this happen,” Parks said. “And that’s focused on the end user, the end customer experience and what is not being met today by what we do or what others do.”
That thought process was reflected in a recent HHCN conversation with Nick Loporcaro, the former CEO of Landmark Health and the newest partner of The Vistria Group.
“Helping the industry get better organized and elevating it, … that is an area that interests me,” Loporcaro said. “I think there’s an opportunity there in being able to do that without necessarily consolidating the whole space.”
For instance, Parks mentioned that the home care, home health and hospice industries are still plagued by “legacy systems,” where there are artificial walls between providers, distributors, payers and health systems that manifest on a daily basis.
That, in turn, leads to patients not getting what they need, when they need it, in the home.
“One of the key things that we initiated immediately upon coming in was a rapid commercialization of utilizing external and internal platforms to diminish that friction and improve the experience,” Parks said. “That rapidly accelerated commercialization effort, it’s yielding fruit now from a customer experience perspective, but also improves our ability to be more efficient as a company.”
An example Parks gave was faxes. Something as simple as faxes, which are still widely used in the health care space, can lead to pitfalls that eventually affect patients in the home.
Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions has made an effort to get providers and other partners to do away with faxes, and instead have structured data fields coming from electronic health records, which then are put into a system that can rapidly asses what is incomplete so patients can get what they need from providers as soon as possible.
“That’s a really important piece that may sound basic, but can be transformative for large companies that are chasing documents and chasing faxes,” Parks said.
What’s next for Cardinal
Cardinal wants its hands on as many parts of the at-home care ecosystem as possible. If it’s able to accomplish that, its belief is that that will lead to a better patient experience in the home.
It’s piloting a few models – most of which Parks couldn’t get into – around bringing all of the parts that make up the home-based care experience closer together.
“That way, there’s a more holistic experience of getting patients what they need from a single entity,” he said.
The at-home unit works with home health and hospice agencies on distribution already, but wants to become an even more important partner to them on a business-to-business level.
Additionally, as one of the early investors into Medically Home, the business unit is naturally honed in on what’s going on in hospital at home.
“That’s an area we’re extremely invested in,” Parks said. “And now, we’re moving out with plans on supporting hospital care in the home through enabling a scaled supply chain.”