With the recent announcement by CMS of a new set of quality measures for HCBS (“home- and community-based services”), it’s important to take a moment to consider what this means for Home Health providers…specifically where connectivity and technology are involved. Those of us who are no strangers to HEDIS, Star Measures, and CQMs (among others) have seen how healthcare IT solutions like EHRs and fancy bolt-on tools are leveraged to monitor and improve quality measures within hospitals and health systems. What is unique about the Home Health sector is that technology available to these providers is generally simpler and less interoperable than other care settings. Because national Home Health quality measures, voluntary for now, create a standard for documenting certain aspects of care for measurement (those numerators and denominators aren’t going to calculate themselves, after all), closing the gap of connectivity and communication for Home Health providers in the care continuum is more important than ever!

Creating A Connected Home Health Network To Move The Needle On Quality

We’ve mentioned before how hard Home Health agencies were hit post-pandemic, and the need for flexible, effective communication solutions continues to be a vital need to serve the boatload of patients still under care. Given the burn-out and turnover rates, Home Health agencies cannot afford inefficient, point-to-point communication methods to keep up with quality initiatives…or in general. Connectivity must move toward scalable, shared, networks of providers – both within the post-acute sector and otherwise – to ensure the exchange of information is secure and as close to real-time as possible.

Some of the HCBS quality measures, for example, center around not only updating the Home Health service plan on an annual basis, but ensuring that the service plan is delivered upon in terms of type, scope, amount, and duration. Because Home Health care plans may still reside on paper, faxed to-and-fro, it’s worth considering how some simple electronic data sharing tools can improve exchangeability as well as monitoring for reporting. It’s only a matter of time before measuring up (pun intended) means more dollars and/or more recognition, so being able to track, share, and document such information will become increasingly standardized and necessary.

When Home Health providers are expected to review and revise care plans after an inpatient discharge, having access to ADT notifications becomes a powerful communication mechanism for proactively addressing this measure. And keep in mind, the whole point of quality measures isn’t just to check a box; these activities equate to better outcomes, happier and healthier patients, and more empowered healthcare providers across the care team!

Patients Expect That We Have Our Collective Act Together

The reality of these HCBS quality measures is that they are aimed not at creating more work for Home Health providers, but for ensuring that patients all over the country have access to great care, regardless of where or who they are. This is a wonderful thing! Keep in mind, however, that perception goes a long way, especially when participant-reported responses play into performance measures (think CAHPS surveys).

Because Home Health providers are already facing immense pressure from the volume of patients and the stress of supporting the socioeconomic factors (such as transportation, mental health, etc.) that impact health, it’s important to provide tools like Direct Secure Messaging, Cloud Faxing, or our Kno2fy Communication Portal to help Home Health aides easily communicate with other providers and coordinate care delivery and referrals. Patients expect we can easily do this given decades of work in laying interoperability groundwork, so it’s vital to bring post-acute providers into the folds so they don’t inadvertently pay the price (in terms of sour feedback and declining scores) as a result of the industry’s blind eye to home and community-based care providers.