Nov 10th 2021

The Benefits of Quality In-Home Healthcare

In-home healthcare is increasingly popular because of the value it offers to payers, providers, and patients. By providing care in a setting that is comfortable for patients, helpful for providers, and affordable for payers, home health services help improve outcomes and reduce costs.

According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in-home healthcare is usually less expensive, more convenient, and just as effective as care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility. CMS lists wound care, intravenous or nutrition therapy, and injections as examples of common in-home health services.

Improving outcomes through home health management programs

Social determinants of health (SDOH) impact health risks and outcomes. According to a CMS study, impactful SDOH factors include homelessness, difficulties living alone, and problems related to the loss or absence of a family member. Understanding how patients live—including whether they have someone who cares for them, what foods they have access to, their physical circumstances, and their lifestyle—helps clinicians ensure that patients get the right home health services.

Common scenarios include a disability-trained nurse practitioner providing care to a patient with a disability at their home. In another example, a patient with heart failure who experiences increased weight and swelling and complains of shortness of breath, could in the right circumstances be treated at home with IV-pushed medication or water pills, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

Home healthcare providers can also look for issues such as throw rugs, clutter, or broken stairs that can result in patients falling, and can make recommendations such as adding a grab bar next to a toilet.

Reducing care costs by choosing home health management for discharged patients

In addition to helping patients achieve positive health outcomes, home healthcare can also reduce overall healthcare costs by avoiding hospital readmissions, emergency department visits, and other costly care options.

Post-acute care averages $4,514 less for Medicare beneficiaries discharged to home health care versus patients in a skilled nursing facility, according to a University of Pennsylvania study of patient outcomes after hospital discharge to home healthcare. Additionally, a report by the Institute of Medicine notes that the readmission rate is much lower for patients discharged to home healthcare (18%) compared to the readmission rate for those discharged to skilled nursing facilities (22%).

Patients are readmitted less often when hospitals and providers of home health services collaborate on creating and implementing a patient-centered plan for post-acute care. Home healthcare providers also reduce the number of readmissions by identifying and resolving potential problems for at-risk patients who might otherwise land back at the hospital. For example, home healthcare providers can help make sure that patients with diabetes stay on top of blood sugar problems and make treatment adjustments early instead of allowing the situation to escalate into an emergency that requires readmission. Home healthcare providers can also prevent readmissions by ensuring that medication plans are followed properly—avoiding accidental overdoses or poor recoveries due to undermedication.

Home healthcare's role in post-acute care continues to expand as health plans and providers increasingly realize that home healthcare services offer an appropriate level and site for care. By screening patients for social determinants of health like housing instability, utility needs, or problems from living alone, clinicians can efficiently identify and resolve health risks, thereby improving outcomes while reducing costs.

Quality home health services can provide patients the right care at the right time in the right place—pleasing patients, payers, and providers alike.