You may have seen it in the movies, read it in a book, or — depending on your age — experienced it yourself. House calls — when physicians provide acute-level care in a patient’s home — used to be the norm. Rather than schlepping the sick individual into the car and to the office, physicians used to go to where they were needed.
In fact, before 1950, house calls made up nearly half of all physicians’ visits in the US.
Now, house calls seem like a thing of the past. But with hospital at home, we might be heading back to the future — and there are plenty of benefits.
CareContent CEO, Kadesha Smith, moderated a session at the 2022 American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Virtual Leadership Symposium called “Leadership Insights: Hospital-at-Home — Creating Value for Patients and Providers.” Speakers included:
- Colleen Hole, FACHE, Vice President, Clinical Integration & Population Health at Atrium Health
- Stephen Parodi, MD, Executive Vice President of the Permanente Federation at Kaiser Permanente
- Justin Moore, DPT, CEO of American Physical Therapy Association
As highlighted in this session, many healthcare experts are saying that the future of healthcare is at home.
Why Hospital At Home Now?
In the decades that have passed since house calls were the norm, healthcare has come a long way. We’ve overcome issues of the past, like inefficiencies solved by electronic medical records and support from vendors.
What’s more, we’re already seeing this concept in action in other countries. For instance, Cuba’s healthcare system has an emphasis on community-based healthcare. Primary care providers don’t just live in the communities they serve, but they also visit each home at least twice per year to identify health conditions before they get worse.
Finally — and maybe most relevant right now — the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the hand of payers and policymakers. In November 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched the Acute Hospital Care at Home Program. This authorized hospitals to care for patients in their homes. It also allowed hospitals to access Medicare reimbursement for at-home care services for more than 60 conditions, like asthma and congestive heart failure.
Hospital at home is a move in the right direction. If your organization offers it, here’s why you should promote this offering and incorporate it into your content strategy. And if it doesn’t, here’s why it might be time to get on board.
5 Reasons Hospital At Home Benefits Patients And Healthcare Organizations
1. It reduces barriers to healthcare access.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that healthcare in the US is nowhere near equal. Hospital at home helps reduce some of the barriers that lead to these inequities.
Visiting the doctor takes time and money. You need to have access to childcare and transportation, money to pay for said transportation (and possibly also the childcare), and the time to put yourself first — all of which are privileges not everyone has.
Hospital at home is a solution to some of these problems. When the hospital goes to the patient, it helps limit hurdles to accessing quality care.
2. It keeps patients safe.
No matter how many measures you put in place to protect patients, the hospital setting puts patients at risk. It exposes patients to germs, and for those who are more vulnerable, this can be not just problematic, but deadly.
Bringing the hospital to patients’ homes is often safer. It reduces the amount of germs they’re exposed to from other people, surfaces, and environments. It also leads to fewer complications that come from hospital stays, like delirium, infections, and the need for sedation.
3. It allows clinicians a window into the lives of their patients.
Where you live — including your neighborhood, support system, and physical home — all play a major role in your health. And yet, most healthcare providers have no idea what their patients’ lives are actually like.
Hospital at home brings providers to patients’ homes, giving them an opportunity to see their patients’ lived experiences. For instance, if a patient has issues with falls, clinicians can identify fall risks in the home. If a patient has chronic respiratory issues, clinicians can pinpoint concerns like pets in the home.
4. It saves healthcare organizations money.
Whether it’s a bookstore, school, or hospital, running any kind of brick-and-mortar business costs money. With the COVID-19 pandemic, plenty of organizations have seen how the shift to virtual or at-home services can significantly reduce overhead costs for space and supplies.
In fact, pilots of hospital at home have already seen savings of 30% or more per admission — all while keeping up with high-quality care.
Major bonus — hospitals that are overcrowded can continue to serve patients and bring in income without needing open beds in their facilities.
5. It helps clinicians connect with caregivers and loved ones.
Caregivers and loved ones play a significant role in the health of many patients. However, not all caregivers can make it to healthcare appointments, leaving it up to patients to remember and accurately relay important information.
When clinicians go to patients’ homes, they can educate caregivers and loved ones right then and there. This can ensure accurate and timely information gets where it needs to go without the risk of miscommunication.
Hospital At Home: Where The Past Meets The Present And The Future
Hospital at home brings the notion of house calls to future opportunities in healthcare. But it also reflects the situation we are currently navigating — COVID-19.
The pandemic has turned our homes into our schools, workplaces, and gyms. Thanks to this shift, consumers expect everything that can be done at home to be done that way. Hospital at home meets consumers where they are — at home. This convenience isn’t just better for them, it also enhances the patient experience.
Bringing healthcare to patient homes benefits patients and healthcare systems alike. As healthcare organizations, policymakers, and payers continue to look at it as a favorable alternative, hospital at home is a way to go back to the future in healthcare.