Home Health Providers are some of the unsung heroes of healthcare. The need for in-home/at-a-distance care is rapidly expanding. Even prior to COVID, patients have been shifting towards wanting and needing more services that don’t require facilities or transport. It makes sense if you think about it: everything else in our world these days is mobile, on-the-go, and on-demand. Of course these demands have reached healthcare as well. However, as with many things, the ability for the industry to adapt is slow and difficult. And this is where home health services, already posed to meet those needs (just not at scale…yet), have swooped in and provided exponential value and just-in-time care. But as the demands continue beyond the pandemic, and at a pace that we can scarcely bear, we have to consider how we can nimbly equip providers outside of hospitals and clinics with the best communication tools available, and to meet these mobile providers wherever (and whenever) they need to collaborate.
Home Health Care Is On-Demand
Those who’ve had to rely on home health care services due to the nature of their condition or abilities understand that these providers are absolutely vital to the outcomes of millions of patients utilizing these services. In 2019, CMS’s Home Health Quality Reporting Program reported that just shy of 7.5 million quality episodes of care took place…and that’s just CMS numbers. This is not a fringe provider or negligible cost; this is massive. And yet, some of the most manual, “offline” processes persist for providers who need connectivity – and meaningful connectivity, at that.
It’s a bit of a head-scratcher that home health agencies and community paramedicine providers are some of the least in-the-loop in the healthcare continuum. We take for granted that internet access must mean full-scale connectivity, but the realities of healthcare are far more complex, due to security concerns, HIPAA, technology limitations, budget constraints, or many other variables that impede progress in this sector. This is especially frustrating when you look at the billions spent on healthcare IT infrastructure, only to realize we still have rural and in-home providers in the dark.
We Can’t Wait for National Interoperability to Turn on the Lights for Home Health Providers
We’ve been around long enough to know that industry change is slow, but we still believe it’s possible. (It has to be, frankly.) In the meantime, collectively focusing healthcare IT vendors and funding to equipping home health providers (and EMS, while we’re at it) with tools that meet basic needs – like patient look-up, secure and simple records exchange, and provider directories to encourage true collaboration without an expensive new integration – can have a massive impact on how effective and strategic these front-line providers are when we need their services most.