20 Oct In-Home Care, Virtual Visits, TeleHealth, The Evolution of Home Health Care
The worldwide Coronavirus pandemic has caused ripple effects across numerous sectors of the global and local economies. A dramatic shift upwards in demand for homecare and medical care in general, has subsequently changed the way that healthcare is delivered and received on many fronts.
The After Effects of Covid-19 on How Health Care is Delivered
At the federal level, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar recently stated his belief that COVID-19 has ushered in a type of revolution in health care. He also believes that a large percentage of that revolution will be anchored by a laser-like focus on care administered within the patient’s home.
2020 has seen a large increase in demand for safer forms of care. Home Health Software that offers options for socially distanced home visits, and the rising usage rate of telehealth are drifting a segment of the industry towards both technology and a more value-based health care system, particularly here in the U.S.
Technology, In-Home-Visits, TeleHealth, & Medicare Advantage
One large national health provider executive noted when interviewed, that prior to COVID-19 coming to U.S shores, his company was scheduling around ten telehealth visits per week. Within a period of less than two months, that number increased to almost four thousand telehealth visits per day. A significant chunk of those visits dealt with physical and occupational therapy, however, there are broad increases across the entire healthcare system including home health care, pediatric care, and companion care.
Industry experts have weighed in and many are not of the belief that this is a temporary shift due to COVID, but likely a permanent transformation of the industry’s landscape. The entire mentality of how agencies approach home care visitation has been changed at its root, and remote visit technology sits at the forefront of this change. Recent interviews and surveys have indicated that things will likely not return to where they were before the pandemic, largely because health providers are beginning to understand that the delivery of care methods that have become routine now, often times are more cost effective and safer for both healthcare workers and patients.
In a recent virtual Medicare Advantage webinar, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar stated, “One of the instructive experiences from COVID-19 has been the vastly expanded role of telehealth. “We went from about 14,000 virtual visits in Medicare fee-for-service each week before the pandemic to nearly 1.7 million virtual visits a week, at the peak. There is no undoing this revolution. We’ve already worked over the past several years to create permanent flexibilities in Medicare Advantage, expanding the ability for plans to pay for virtual check-ins and a wider variety of circumstances, allowing patients to receive this care from the convenience of their home rather than a doctor’s office,” the HHS secretary commented.
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The need for home-based care has experienced huge upticks mostly due to the ongoing public health situation, and the federal government has recognized its critical role in the health care system. Azar attributes this to the evolution of Medicare Advantage, citing how the work has already been in progress over the past several years to create permanent flexibilities in the system. In essence, Medicare Advantage expands the ability for plans to pay for virtual check-ins and a wider variety of circumstances, positioning patients to receive the care they need from the comfort of their homes rather than visiting a doctor’s office or hospital. Additionally, rural patients (whose care opportunities have long been considered inequitable within America’s healthcare system) should now begin to have easier access to needed care.
The “New Normal” that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought, has brought into even sharper focus the glaring disparities in care for underprivileged, financially challenged, and chronically ill segments of the population. Expanded Medicare Advantage benefits are considered an effective way to address some of those disparities moving forward by the U.S government.
In September, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) released updated data which indicated 738 plans will be offering primarily health-related supplemental benefits in 2021. This number represents a nearly 50% increase in comparison to the nearly 500 plans that did so in 2020. The data also revealed that more than 900 plans are offering benefits under SSBCI pathway next year, representing an almost 400% increase compared to the 245 plans that did so in 2020.
The anticipation is that focusing on social determinants of obstacles in care will be simplified due to the increased number of Medicare Advantage plans carrying SSBCI benefits in 2021 and beyond. Providers will be able to reach and administer care to a larger number of individuals in need since the overall pool of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries is growing.
The Alora Homecare Software Blog
Read the Alora blog for industry news, including recent news, articles and commentaries, as well as other issues that pertain to Homecare in the U.S and beyond. For more information on Medicare Advantage, telehealth, socially distanced homecare, or information on selecting the Best Home Health Software for agencies, questions, and feedback, please send us an email to HomeHealthSoftware@Alorahealth.com