In many respects, COVID-19 changed the world. However, the pandemic also brought about a great shift in how clinicians provide care to patients, especially for home health care. Take a closer look at telehealth for home health care, why it is a natural fit, and what devices make this level of care most possible.
What is Telehealth for Home Health Care?
Telehealth is using some type of telecommunications technology, such as a phone or computer for providing patient care. Telehealth for home health is a care model specific to the home health area of medicine that uses telecommunications technology to deliver care to patients.
Generally speaking, telehealth is an umbrella term that encompasses a number of other sectors, such as medical care by phone, video appointments, and remote patient monitoring.
Who uses home health care?
Seniors over the age of 65 make up the bulk of the patients that receive home health care, with patients over the age of 85 getting the most care. However, while home health care centers around older adults, other patients may need care in their homes as well. For example, it is not uncommon for patients that need further assistance throughout recovery after their release from a hospital, to access home health services.
Advantages of Telemedicine for Home Health Care
Regardless of the area of medicine, remote services open up a lot of possibilities to make patient care more efficient and convenient. However, telehealth for home health care brings several noteworthy advantages to the table that are unique to this area of care.
Some of the most obvious include:
- Cutting hospital readmission rates
- Improving patient care and medication compliance for better illness management
- Better supporting high-risk patients who need to stay at home
- Cutting costs for the care provider
- Allowing providers access to more patients and more efficient care models
Patients are generally satisfied with telehealth. Various studies and surveys have found that patients who have received telehealth services have had positive experiences. According to one survey performed by SingleCare, 42 percent of patients are extremely satisfied, and another 36 percent somewhat satisfied.
Telehealth Boom in Home Health Care
Without question, the last several years have brought about a significant boom in telehealth for home health care. Both the advancement of remote patient monitoring and the pandemic drove the uptick in providers using some level of telehealth for home health care. When the pandemic hit in 2020, many home health providers made use of existing telemedicine technologies to simplify care for some of the most at-risk patients.
Effects of COVID-19 on Home Health Care Telehealth
COVID-19 skyrocketed the use of telehealth technologies. According to Home Health Care News, telehealth use increased to 38 times what it was before the pandemic.
For example, AccentCare, one of the largest hospice and home health care providers in the country, has expanded its telehealth use over the last few years. This made it possible to fill in gaps where care was lacking, prevent hospital admissions, and get people back to their homes for faster recovery after a hospital stay. During the final week of March 2020, there was a 154 percent increase in telehealth visits over the year before.
How Home Health Telehealth Utilization is Likely to Remain Strong
While there have been naysayers in the past that speculated remote care could lack some of the necessary fundamentals to support the best care, statistical data on the positive outcomes shows otherwise. Therefore, more providers have adopted remote care technologies and processes, and some patients now prefer a provider that offers it.
Telehealth for home health care is frequently used in this area of medicine, more than by standard care providers. The fact that the bulk of patients using home health services is seniors means that these patients can require more monitoring than usual. Therefore, telemedicine is a natural fit in care models and is likely to stick around.
How to Secure Home Health Telehealth Reimbursement
Home health telehealth reimbursement was once a complicated matter. However, the dire need for remote care forced insurers to rethink their policies for reimbursement and make them more simplified.
The most important way to make sure home health telehealth reimbursement is to comply with the regulations set forth by that provider. For example, make sure to use technology vendors that remain HIPAA-compliant and ensure the patient’s needs are well identified during the initial in-person assessment.
Does Medicare pay for home health telehealth visits?
Medicare does pay for home health telehealthcare, even though the coverage is continually being updated. The pandemic led CMS to create telehealth allowances so care could be more flexible and people could be better protected from the virus. However, in November of 2021, CMS expanded its coverage for telehealth as a permanent change.
A Look at User-Friendly Home Care Technology
The massive interest in-home care technology has made way for many revolutionary technologies that simplify patient care. A large part of this shift has been with remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices. While some types of telehealth rely on video and phone communication with a care provider, RPM devices directly monitor things about a patient’s health status, and that information is automatically transmitted to the care provider.
For example, some devices monitor key vital signs, such as blood glucose levels, heart rate, and blood oxygen levels, and transmit that data to the care provider. The data is transmitted wirelessly across either a cellular or internet connection. The best technologies are easy-to-use devices with simple interfaces that are easy for patients to use, but also simple for care providers to integrate into their practice. As an adage, telehealth software can be used with EHR solutions to create seamless care.