By Ethan Popowitz
Many of the blogs I’ve written for Definitive Healthcare explore different facets of COVID-19 and how the pandemic has contributed to a significant shift in how and where patients receive care.
One trend I’m fascinated by is the growing number of patients seeking and receiving treatment in their own homes. I think we can all agree that being treated in the comfort, convenience and safety of our homes is far more appealing than the sterile setting of an expensive hospital.
When I covered this trend in detail in the past, I focused primarily on the reasons and factors that motivated patients to engage with their physicians in new ways.
This time, we’re shifting perspectives to the federal programs and policies and big business moves that are encouraging growth in home health care. My colleagues Kevin Dubuc, senior product marketing manager and Meaghan DePeter, senior product trainer, dig deep into the top trends surrounding this movement in our latest webinar that you can watch on-demand here.
The webinar is a fast-paced 15-minute watch. But if you’d like to get a quick read of the discussion points while you sip your morning coffee, I’ve summarized the webinar below into two big takeaways:
Care is moving out of the hospital and into the home.
Growth leads to interest. Interest leads to investment.
Care is moving out of the hospital and into the home
The home health care market has been growing in popularity and profitability for years. From the graph below, we can track the approximate number of patients receiving home health care from 2019 to 2021.
According to the National Library of Medicine, about five million people received care at home in 2019. This number skyrocketed as the pandemic spread and people felt reluctant to visit their doctor face-to-face. By the end of 2021, Statista estimated about 15 million patients were actively getting home health care.
There are a few ways to possibly explain this growth:
The first is that simply more patients are finding at-home care suitable to their lifestyle and wellbeing. This may be especially true for people living with chronic conditions or disabilities, as home health care presents a more convenient and often less expensive alternative to traditional treatment. COVID-19 is likely a significant driver behind this movement, as social distancing guidelines, mask mandates and lockdowns made it more difficult for some patients to reach the doctor’s office.
But change wasn’t just happening at the patient level. As Kevin discusses in the webinar, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) explored new ways to alleviate the burden felt by hospitals during the height of the pandemic. At the same time, CMS increased the capabilities of home health agencies.
This was made possible by the creation (and subsequent expansion) of the Hospitals Without Walls program, which previously allowed hospitals to provide acute care services in locations beyond their existing walls. The program initially introduced regulations to expand the breadth and availability of telehealth and empower ambulatory surgery centers.
CMS quickly realized, however, that hospitals were still overwhelmed and, in late 2021, launched the Acute Hospital Care at Home program as an evolution of Hospitals Without Walls. The program’s website provides a complete list of the changes this new initiative brought. To summarize it, the Acute Hospital Care at Home program allowed for select acute care services to be provided within a patient’s home in order to reduce overwhelming patient volumes at hospitals.
At the same time, CMS finalized changes to home health payment and reimbursement models. These changes updated payment rates and significantly improved incentives for home health agencies and long-term care facilities.
In concert with the Acute Hospital Care at Home program, these developments established a solid framework for opportunities in the home health care space. Now, hospitals are backed by federal initiatives to expand their services beyond their normal reach. We’re likely to see increased partnerships and collaborations with existing home health agencies, which have been similarly empowered to treat high-acuity patients.
Growth leads to interest. Interest leads to investment.
All this growth in the home health market is creating an appetite for investment from big players in the industry.
Kevin and Meaghan explain how we’re already seeing significant investment in home health care. In January 2022, health technology company Medically Home raised $110 million in funding to develop and enhance tools that help hospitals and health systems deliver acute care in patients’ homes. This move was closely followed a month later by ConcertoCare, a provider of at-home care for Medicare beneficiaries who raised $105M.
We’re also seeing companies make partnerships or merge with others to capitalize on the growing opportunities in home health care. Amazon’s collaboration with Teladoc and Thirty Madison’s recent merger with Nurx likely signal an interesting shift in the market.
While it’s impossible to say what the outcomes of these recent events may be, we’re confident that interest in expanding the possibilities of home care, whether it’s delivered in-person or virtually, is a good thing. Interest leads to investment, and investment can lead to innovation and better patient outcomes. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Getting your foot in the door
It’s not an understatement to say the home health care market is in a lot of flux right now. Whether your company is entering or competing in the space, Definitive Healthcare can help you navigate the changes in the market.
Kevin and Meaghan encourage using a data-driven approach to marketing and sales so you can get clear visibility into where these new trends are going and make more informed, more confident decisions. You can learn more about it by watching the webinar here or by starting a free trial today.