Running a home health company in 2023 is not the same job it was 5 or 10 years ago. Leaders are now tasked with building next-generation home health entities, ones that can survive now and thrive later.
In many ways, a company like Compassus already exemplifies what it means to be a next-generation home health company.
Based in Nashville, Tennessee, it is a highly integrated home-based senior care provider that delivers home health, hospice, palliative care, infusion therapy and advanced care management. In the past, Compassus has also teamed up with personal care franchise company Synergy HomeCare.
“I think [about] three things with regards to the future of home care,” Jeff Marsh, chief growth officer at Compassus, said last month at Home Health Care News’ FUTURE conference. “One, there’s going to be an expectation for home care providers to be able to provide higher and higher acuity care in the home. I also think we’re going to have to widen the aperture in terms of what we look at in the home — social determinants of health, behavioral health, mental health. I think that the impact of other comorbidities on recidivism rates and rehospitalizations is an unmet need at this point.”
The third area that will factor into the future of home health care is the more thoughtful use of technology to drive productivity, according to Marsh.
“We’ve seen over the last generation, no discernible improvement in productivity in home care,” he said. “And so, with newer technologies coming to the forefront now, these will be systems that will be needed to enable better provider efficiencies in the home.”
At PathWell – a newer, Connecticut-based home health provider – building a next-generation home health platform means focusing on the Medicare Advantage (MA) population more and more.
“The approach we’ve taken is focusing on the MA plans that are already ahead of the curve, in terms of wanting to work with health care providers,” Raman Brar, co-founder and CEO of Pathwell, said at the event. “Really starting with the plans who are already believers — instead of converting them.”
In the world of home health care, one of the biggest stories earlier this year was UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), and its subsidiary Optum, acquiring industry giant LHC Group in a $5.4 billion deal.
Josh Proffitt, president and CEO of Lafayette, Louisiana-based LHC Group, views this acquisition as being in line with the larger evolution of home health care.
“Now, being about six months in, [what’s got me most excited] is the acceleration that we’re going to experience in those key areas of innovating in home health care — value-based purchasing, value-based programs, leaning more into risk arrangements, and really going upside-downside risk,” he said. “And having the capabilities, the technologies, the analytics, the actuarial work, and a lot of the resources that an organization like Optum brings to bear with us.”
Growing into the next generation
For Choice Health at Home, M&A has been a key strategy in transforming into a next-generation home health platform.
This has meant acquiring businesses and embracing the new employees that come onboard through these deals, according to David Jackson, the CEO of Choice Health at Home.
“I tell people, every time we acquire a business, there are no hospital walls, there are no hospital floors to keep clean, you can’t improve the parking, the investment is in the employee,” he said.
The Tyler, Texas-based Choice is home health, hospice and rehabilitation services provider. The company operates in locations across Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
Jackson noted that over the past 12 months, Choice Health at Home has invested a larger percentage of the company’s revenue into its employees than it ever has in its history.
On the clinical side, Choice Health at Home’s focus on palliative care has been a way for the company to better serve its patients, and a way to activate the company’s staff.
“The nurse that feels like she’s making a difference is excited to come to work. She’s not going to leave you for a few dollars because she didn’t get into the industry purely to make money, she got into the industry because she likes to take care of people, he likes to take care of people,” Jackson said.
The company has also expanded into remote patient monitoring. Currently, Choice Health at Home monitors or has a wearable device on over 20% of the company’s patients.
On its end, Compassus has also embraced the SNF-at-home model as a way to deepen its care capabilities for higher-acuity patients at home.
“When we undertook that opportunity, we were really looking for a solution that helped bridge what we think is a pretty significant space between the traditional home health experience and say, a skilled nursing facility, or inpatient rehab level of recovery,” Marsh said.
Compassus viewed the marriage of traditional home health – but with more PT, RN and personal care support – wrapped with ancillary supportive services such as meal support, transportation DME and telehealth as the way to pull this off.
“We’re a very health-system and provider-partner, focused organization, and we see that as a real key solution for many of our hospital partners, who are looking for ways to get creative at that intersection point of acute and post-acute,” Marsh said.
Moving forward, Proffitt believes that the concept of higher-acuity care in the home will become table stakes.
“In many ways, it’s going to become the intersection of pre-acute to avoid acute – to be able to capture that patient and care for them safely in their home,” he said.