Home care workforce sees upside, needs support
Editor’s note: This is the final installment of a five-article series on the evolution of care to more patient-centric, virtual, and in-home. Previous articles discussed home-based care from the patient perspective, increased security demands of health at home, technologies driving home-based care, and a home care roadmap for CIOs, CTOs, and CISOs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a major evolution in healthcare delivery, with a significant increase in the adoption of home-based care. This shift has led to a surge in the demand for clinical professionals who can provide care in patients’ homes.
Healthcare at home offers many advantages for the clinical workforce, including steady workload and hours, more personal interactions with patients, and improved work satisfaction. However, there are concerns to be addressed.
Jason Brandt, head of field sales at SHI Healthcare, noted, “While the homecare workforce has more than doubled over the past decade, it is still struggling to keep pace with this rapid growth in demand. In addition to having enough staff to meet demand, providers need to ensure adequate training, workflow, and revenue optimization to maintain a successful home care program that meets patients’ and workers’ needs.
Remote and in-home work advantages
One of the key aspects of home-based care is the utilization of telemedicine and other remote care offerings. Telemedicine can be highly beneficial to the healthcare workforce, as it minimizes the risk of exposure to illnesses, particularly during a time when infectious diseases like COVID-19 pose a significant threat. In fact, a survey of 200 healthcare providers across the United States revealed that an overwhelming majority (96.5%) considered telemedicine to be a good mode for patient encounters. Furthermore, 90% of respondents agreed that telemedicine should be included in the training curriculum for healthcare professionals.
A recent telehealth impact survey of physicians (The COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition [C19HCC] Telehealth Workgroup) found more than 75% of clinicians surveyed said telehealth enabled them to provide quality care in the areas of COVID-19-related care, acute care, chronic disease management, hospital follow-up, care coordination, preventative care, and mental/behavioral health. More than two-thirds of physician respondents supported the increased use of telehealth in their practices.
There has been some concern regarding whether telehealth simply delays an inevitable in-person visit. However, a study conducted by Epic Systems found that telehealth not only provided convenience to patients but also reduced the need for in-person visits significantly. For instance, 15% of mental health virtual visits and 46% of pediatrics remote visits did not require an in-person follow-up. This demonstrates the potential of home health and telehealth in optimizing care delivery and reducing the burden on healthcare providers.
Another significant impact of home health and telehealth is the reduction in provider burnout, which is a major contributor to workforce shortages. More than 55% of healthcare specialists reported (C19HCC impact survey) improved work satisfaction after the implementation of telemedicine, as it allowed them to replace administrative burdens with paperless solutions. Additionally, a survey conducted by Physicians Weekly revealed that 68% of physicians plan to increase their use of telemedicine in their workflow. These findings underscore the potential of telehealth in alleviating burnout and improving the overall well-being of healthcare providers.
Supporting the home care workforce
For home-based care to be effective, healthcare providers will need appropriate training to understand and deliver care in a home setting. This includes learning new processes, familiarizing themselves with new devices and technology, and adapting to the unique challenges of providing care outside of traditional healthcare settings.
It is also crucial to determine the extent to which care can be displaced by remote visits versus in-home visits. Healthcare organizations must carefully evaluate the needs of individual patients and strike a balance between virtual care and in-person visits to ensure optimal outcomes.
While workforce-sharing models can help meet the increasing demand for home-based care, it is important to note that patients may not prefer rotating caregivers. Many patients value knowing the person who will be providing their care and having a sense of consistency and familiarity.
To meet the evolving demands of home-based care, healthcare organizations must continuously re-evaluate their telehealth programs. This involves ensuring sufficient coverage, optimizing workflow, and maximizing revenue potential. By fine-tuning these programs, organizations can enhance the quality of care and improve patient satisfaction.
The growing adoption of home-based care in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a substantial increase in the clinical workforce. Telemedicine and remote care offerings can be beneficial in minimizing exposure risks, reducing in-person visits, and mitigating provider burnout. However, adequate training, careful evaluation of care displacement, and patient-centered approaches are essential to ensure the success and effectiveness of home-based care. By addressing these considerations and continually optimizing telehealth programs, healthcare organizations can meet the evolving workforce demands of this transformative care delivery model.
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