Most home health predictions for 2020 were marred by COVID-19. But now that the industry has dealt with a public health emergency for over eight months, insiders are trying their hand at 2021 — and hoping for less unpredictability this time around.
Next year will undoubtedly be shaped by COVID-19’s effects. Specifically, the virus will likely lead to less siloed care delivery while shifting the home health industry more toward technology.
Additionally, the year’s events will likely turn caregiving into a sought-after career and drive more care to the home overall, AlayaCare founder and CEO Adrian Schauer told Home Health Care News.
The concept of more care entering the home is something that providers in both the personal care and home health industries have been pushing for a while. Now, for better or for worse, COVID-19 has accelerated that migration.
That shift will create tailwinds for providers in 2021, but it could also create some challenges.
“Even most personal care providers have a level of clinical oversight,” Schauer said. “But I think the role of the nurse supervisor is poised to become twice as important as it was pre- pandemic.”
Montreal-based AlayaCare is a cloud-based home care technology provider that serves more than 3,000 agencies across the U.S., Canada and Australia.
Hospital-at-home and SNF-at-home models have both become far more popular during the COVID-19 crisis. Each provides a new opportunity for home health agencies to help deliver care in the home, but providers also need to ramp up their capabilities if they’re intrigued by either concept.
“As higher acuity levels of care shift to the home, it makes it even more important to coordinate that care — home care — with the rest of the health care system,” Schauer said.
Breaking down silos
The coordination of care and less siloed care delivery will lead to a more holistic system of care management moving forward, Schauer believes.
Clinical care and personal care will continue to merge as Medicare Advantage (MA) becomes more popular and more plans begin offering home care as a benefit to address social determinants of health.
“It’s really the continuation of a trend with addressing social determinants of health and the payer evolution,” Schauer said.
In addition to MA plans, managed care organizations (MCOs) are assuming more risk-oriented contracts and also looking at social determinants of health to stratify risk, Schauer noted.
Technology-enabled to technology-centric
A study conducted by HHCN and AlayaCare found that 28% of providers weren’t using technology at all to deliver care.
Times are changing, though, and COVID-19 has forced a lot of agencies to get out of their comfort zone when it comes to advancing their technological capabilities.
“Every agency is at a different point in its technological evolution,” Schauer said. “But a lot of the [transformation] has been about digitizing existing workflows and eking out more efficiency from existing ways of doing business. That’s what I would call the technology-enabled phase.”
“Technology-centric is more about, okay, ‘How is the data and the system of intelligence around that data, really driving how I think about my patient population and what interventions I do?’” he added.
Additionally, contact between caregivers and employers has become almost totally virtual. If agencies want to conquer one of the toughest challenges in home-based care — staffing — they’ll need to be more mindful from a technology perspective moving forward.
Rise of caregiving
Millions of jobs will need to be filled in the home-based care world over the next 10 years due to demand. While staffing remains a challenge, caregiving jobs are on the map more than they have ever been due to COVID-19.
As the economy adjusts to a post-COVID-19 world that has left behind a lot of jobs that Americans formerly held, it presents an opportunity for agencies to turn the corner on their recruiting and retention efforts.
“The public appreciation for what professional caregivers do in our communities has gone through the roof thanks to COVID,” Schauer said. “The other aspect, particularly on the home health side, is that the economy has shed a lot of service jobs. … Unfortunately, the competition is not as fierce from many segments of the economy now. Not only do you have a profession that is much more respected and valued than it was before, but its relative attractiveness has gone up as well.”