Home-based care leaders are constantly looking to other industries to find inspiration.
Take the airline industry, for example.
Despite some of its warts, the convenience of looking up and booking a flight is an immediate process. There is no window of time where a hopeful traveler requests a flight and has to wait a certain amount of time to see which flights are available.
“That’s where we need to evolve to,” Sara Crate, chief commercial officer with DispatchHealth, said during HCP’s Growth Summit earlier this month. “We have such a short window to come in and intervene on these patients when there’s something happening in their home. It’s a couple of hours. So we’ve got to have more real-time access to connect each of our groups.”
That evolution may be more seamless if partnerships in the home-based care space are better leveraged.
Recently, home care providers, digital health companies and other stakeholders have been joining together to close the gaps in care.
Companies like DispatchHealth – a high-acuity at-home care provider – are partnering with non-clinical home care companies like FirstLight Home Care and Amada Senior Care, and also with larger home health providers like Enhabit (NYSE: EHAB).
“As we start to focus more on readmission prevention, it’s so important for a non-medical home care company to have the right partners,” Amada President Chad Fotheringham also said on the panel. “Obviously, we have a certain scope that we have in the home, so having partners like Enhabit and Dispatch really round out our ability to give the services to the clients in their home that they need.”
As a non-medical home care provider, Amada is able to do plenty on its own, Fotheringham said, but having a “tag-team approach” is crucial.
“It really has to happen,” Fotheringham said. “What we’re seeing in this new age of readmission prevention is there has to be a high level of partnering with these different groups that have different capabilities that can really provide all the different pieces that the patients need at home to be able to stay out of the hospital.”
Partnering with different companies improves efficiency, Crate added. It also opens the door to more real-time data sharing.
“We should be able to receive that request for care and look at our logistics engine and let that partner know that either we could be there or they’ve got to go to the ER,” Crate said. “It’s that real-time data sharing. It’s going to require us building links, building that infrastructure to make those quick connections, handoff and then share that information back with the longitudinal care team.”
Where there is significant room for improvement is technology. In the partnerships that exist between these companies, a lot of the communication is done by old-school means – phone calls, emails and other types of meetings.
There are benefits to that.
“I love the person-to-person contact,” Fotheringham said. “I love those relationships and where we’re seeing so much value is when our local teams meet with other local teams. With Enhabit and Dispatch, they’re having those conversations, not just on the sales and the marketing side, but also on the clinical side. With that clinical expertise, information can be shared back and forth about successes and also what could be done better.”
Pendley echoed those thoughts but agreed that more technology usage has to come along sometime soon.
“The local relationships and the personal relationships, you can never replace that with technology,” Pendley said. “However, the inability to really communicate in real-time – and seamlessly – is a void that we need to fill sooner than later.”
Building connections with centralized hubs and software solutions should be the next step, Crate said.
“All of us are having to expend extensive resources to build custom connections,” Crate said. “Which is fine. That’s how innovation works. But I think it’s really time for the industry connectors and hubs to take that on and make that a priority for the providers of these services.”
One company can’t do everything on its own. The home-based care space is starting to come around to that.
“Sometimes providing that care, we recognize that home health and hospice simply can’t do everything by themselves,” Kasi Hedt, SVP of specialty programs at Enhabit, also said. “We can’t do it all. Hospitals are sending patients home quicker than ever before with higher acuity of ailments and more complexity. Collaborative relationships like these allow us to better serve the needs of the patients by making sure that they have every single resource that they need to be able to stay home.”