Is it time for hospital at home?

https://mailchi.mp/f2774a4ad1ea/the-weekly-gist-may-22-2020?e=d1e747d2d8

JAMA - The John A. Hartford Foundation

We’ve long been intrigued by “hospital at home” care models, which deliver hospital-level care for acute conditions, supported by caregivers and technology, in a patient’s home. Stymied by the lack of payment, however, few health systems have pursued the approach. But as COVID-19 has made patients fearful of entering hospitals, we’ve had a flurry of health system leaders ask us whether they should consider launching a program now.

We think the answer is yes—with some caveats. A growing body of evidence supports its use. Cost of care is lower compared to a traditional inpatient stay. Patient satisfaction with care is high. And from a clinical perspective, hospital at home is well-established, capable of managing a number of mild- and moderate-acuity medical conditions, including exacerbations of chronic diseases like heart failure and diabetes, as well as infections like pneumonia and cellulitis, often better than a traditional hospital stay. Some programs are now using hospital at home for management of COVID-19 patients as well. Physician leaders we’ve spoken with are also interested in using the approach to manage post-operative recovery.

“Over half of our joint replacement patients spend time in skilled nursing or inpatient rehab,” one doctor told us. “People think those places are death traps now, and those cases aren’t coming back until we can find another way for them to recover.”

For patients averse to facility-based care, and systems wanting to offer an alternative, hospital at home sounds like a panacea. But experts recommend approaching it with a clear eye to the economics and ramp-up time, which can easily take 12 to 18 months. With emergency regulations released last month, Medicare will now provide payment for hospital care provided in an alternate setting, including the patient’s home—although it’s unclear whether that will continue once the COVID emergency ends. Commercial payer coverage usually requires a separate negotiation.

According to one leader, “Grass roots support of doctors is not enough. The CEO and CFO have to be on board with changing the care and payment model if it’s ever going to be more than a pilot.” But with patients and doctors becoming more comfortable with virtual care and open to new options, there is a a window of opportunity for expanding home-based care—and the longer the COVID-19 crisis lasts, the more hospital at home could provide a competitive advantage over being admitted to a busy, crowded inpatient hospital.

 

 

 

“We’re looking at a tsunami”

https://mailchi.mp/a3d9db7a57c3/the-weekly-gist-march-20-2020?e=d1e747d2d8

Yesterday we spoke with a senior healthcare executive leading the COVID-19 response for a regional health system on the West Coast. Their area is now experiencing exponential growth of new cases, with the number of local diagnoses doubling every couple of days. In all likelihood, they’re less than two weeks from having the number of cases seen in harder-hit areas like San Francisco, Seattle and New York City. She said the “anticipation of what is about to happen” is the scariest part of the around-the-clock work they are doing to prepare.

But that two-week lead time has given them precious time to organize, and she generously shared key elements of their action plan. Their preparation work—surely similar to what hundreds of health systems around the country are doing—impressed us not only with its breadth, depth and comprehensiveness, but also the level of energy and confidence conveyed by the hundreds of actions and decisions, large and small, the system is making every day. Here are some of their important learnings so far:

  1. Even though the surge of patients has yet to begin, staff are “worried and scared”. They are concerned about PPE shortages and personal safety and stressed at home with schools and daycare closed. Detailed and regular communication is more critical than ever—and they’re trying to answer every inbound concern or question from associates directly. They are funding and expanding childcare options for staff, through partnerships with community organizations and daily stipends for home-based care.
  2. As the system works through worst-case scenario planning, they anticipate the need for critical care nurses, respiratory therapists, and emergency physicians will be the worst bottlenecks, and they are working to cross-train adjacent clinicians and build new staffing models to increase capacity. While most providers are deeply dedicated to providing care for COVID-19 patients, a small number have already “called off” and refused to report—creating unanticipated questions around how to manage these difficult situations.
  1. As they prepare to implement new surge staffing models, the system is now navigating through a period of downtime. With elective procedures cancelled and some ambulatory sites closed, they currently need fewer nurses and clinical staff than a month ago, and are creating policies, like allowing staff to go negative into PTO, to maintain income while they wait for the surge. Staff who must work in-person are working variable shifts to reduce crowding. They are also working to credential nurses and staff furloughed from local ambulatory surgery centers, so they have them ready to deploy when needed.
  1. IT staff are working nonstop to quickly make it possible for all eligible employees to work remotely, and to enable staff to safely gain access to the system’s intranet while guarding against new cybersecurity threats. The system is training and enabling hundreds of doctors to deliver care virtually, including affiliated independents.
  1. Guidelines for coronavirus patient management and recommended PPE practices change daily; it’s a full-time job for clinical leaders to keep up. Doctors are eager to try novel and creative treatments for very sick patients. (For instance, one doctor is developing a 3-D printed device that will allow one ventilator to be used for four patients simultaneously.) This eagerness to “do something” is understandable but creates a bit of chaos as leaders work to create policies around how to best manage patients.
  1. While leaders communicate with other health systems and local and state authorities daily, the vast majority of decisions are made internally, on the fly. For instance, the system is connecting with now-empty local hotels and universities to provide options for low-acuity patient capacity, but leaders hope that parallel efforts at other organizations can be brought together into a more unified regional response. For now, however, coordination would likely create unacceptable delays.
  1. Long-term health and stamina of staff is top among the system’s concerns. “If I borrow worry from the future”, this leader said, “I am worried that we are facing years-long trauma, both emotional and financial, and I’m not sure how we will sort it out”. For now, efforts to support staff and provide moments of relief and joy, are critical, and very appreciated by front-line team members.

We left this conversation emotionally overwhelmed ourselves, and with a huge sense of gratitude for clinicians and health system leaders. Americans can take comfort in the amount of work that is taking place even before critical patients begin to appear—and that doctors, nurses and hospitals are truly dedicated to providing us the best possible care under circumstances they have never faced before. If you know about creative approaches or new ideas organizations are putting in place to contend with the current situation, please let us know. We’re eager to share great ideas!

 

 

 

In a Boston acute care matchup, home beats the hospital

https://mailchi.mp/f3434dd2ba5d/the-weekly-gist-december-20-2019?e=d1e747d2d8

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Despite all of the recent hype, the idea of “hospital-at-home” is hardly a new concept. The first randomized, controlled study on the topic, published over 20 years ago, showed that the model was safe, finding that patients with five common conditions who would normally have been admitted to the hospital experienced similar outcomes when treated at home.

This week a new randomized, controlled trial from researchers at Boston-based Brigham and Women’s showed that hospital-at-home had better clinical outcomes and was a whopping 38 percent cheaper than equivalent management in an acute care hospital. Yes, the study was small (91 patients) and probably had some selection bias (just 37 percent of eligible patients chose home care).

Drilling into the data, length of stay for home-based patients was a little longer, but at-home patients received dramatically fewer lab tests, imaging studies and specialist consults—raising the question of whether all those daily chest x-rays, CBCs and curbside consults in traditional hospitals really provide value.

And 30-day readmissions and ED visit rates for home-based patients were less than half of the control group. Selection for clinical appropriateness and family support is critical, but experts estimate that up to a third of medical admissions could be managed in the home setting.

As growing evidence shows hospital-at-home to be safe, effective and lower cost, the lack of a reimbursement model to support investments in home-based acute care is now the greatest obstacle to widespread adoption.

 

 

 

 

Rethinking the model for managing chronic disease

https://mailchi.mp/1d8c22341262/the-weekly-gist-the-spotify-anxiety-edition?e=d1e747d2d8

 

As we’ve discussed before, the greatest challenge facing health system economics is demographics. Simply put, with 80M Boomers entering their Medicare years, hospitals beds will fill with elderly patients receiving treatment for exacerbations of congestive heart failure (CHF), diabetes, or other chronic conditions, of which the average Medicare beneficiary has four. It’s easy to envision the hospital becoming a giant nursing facility, with the vast majority of beds occupied by Medicare patients receiving nursing care and drugs, only to be sent home until their chronic disease flares again and the cycle repeats, four or five times a year.

Health systems must create a new model for managing Medicare patients with multiple chronic conditions, one that does not rely on care delivered in an inpatient setting. In the graphic below, we outline two approaches for managing a Medicare patient with advanced CHF. The top path illustrates today’s legacy model, where limited support for ongoing care management leaves the patient vulnerable to exacerbations, leading to numerous ED visits and admissions for diuresis, after which the patient returns home to a sub-optimal diet and lifestyle and is likely to return.

A better alternative is illustrated in the second path. Here our CHF patient has access to the ongoing support of a care team, which regularly monitors her status from home with the help of remote monitoring and can communicate with the patient to adjust therapy if early symptoms are detected. At Gist, we’re working with clinicians to understand just how to build this system of care and maximize its impact.

One example: a leading heart failure specialist told us that admissions for CHF could be reduced by one-third if patients with severe heart failure were monitored with a CardioMEMS implantable device, which can detect changes in pressure before the patient has symptoms, allowing for very early intervention. Developing these kind of care approaches to manage chronic disease outside the hospital will be the key to sustainable health system economics—and may have the greatest impact on lowering the total cost of care for the growing Medicare population.

 

Hospitals hit bump, but healthcare jobs showed steady growth in July

https://www.healthcaredive.com/trendline/labor/28/#story-1

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Dive Brief:

  • A total of 30,000 healthcare jobs were added to the U.S. labor rolls in July, representing 18% of all new jobs added during the month, according to the Department of Labor.
  • Virtually all of the healthcare job growth occurred in ambulatory care — that segment accounted for 29,000 new jobs alone.
  • The weak spot was in hospital job growth, which was down by 2,000 jobs from the month before.

Dive Insight:

Hospitals are often the biggest employers in many towns and medium-sized cities, but their job creation has been uneven at best in recent months. According to an analyst note from Jefferies, employment by hospitals dropped by 2,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis, although that grew to a net 1,000 new jobs on an unadjusted basis.

By comparison, hospitals added a seasonally adjusted 9,000 new jobs in June, 25,000 on an unadjusted basis. However, much of that boost was created by the minting of new residents who just graduated from medical schools.

Hospital employment is still growing at a 1.8% annual clip (compared to 1.4% as of July 2018), although that’s down from the 2.1% rate reported in April.

“Overall, healthcare employment growth continues to demonstrate strong momentum, but hospital jobs growth appears to be moderating,” the analysts said. Inpatient providers account for more than 5.2 million jobs nationwide.

However, Jefferies’ analysts believe that healthcare will continue to be a big job engine for the foreseeable future.

“We believe the supply of clinical labor continues to struggle to keep pace with solid demand growth, resulting in tight clinician labor markets and strong demand for healthcare temp staffing services,” they said.

Although healthcare job growth has been extremely robust, wages have been stagnant in recent years, a phenomenon attributed in part to continued consolidation among industry players.

The ambulatory care segment has been growing rapidly in recent years. Its addition of 29,000 new jobs was up from 17,000 in June, and significantly outpaced the year-to-date average monthly growth of 22,000.

Home healthcare services added 11,000 new jobs last month alone — the highest rate since 2017. The segment’s annual growth rate is currently 5.3%, up from 3.2% in July 2018.

The nursing home segment added another 1,000 jobs.

 

 

CVS announces aggressive expansion plans

https://cvshealth.com/newsroom/press-releases/cvs-health-outlines-strategy-accelerate-growth

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In a presentation to investors this week, retail pharmacy giant CVS Health announced plans to expand its “HealthHUB” store concept, first launched at three store locations in Houston, to 1,500 stores in the next three years.

The new store concept, built to take advantage of CVS’s 2018 acquisition of health insurer Aetna, is centered around providing more extensive care management and wellness services than traditionally available at the chain’s Minute Clinics. In addition to Houston, the company is targeting Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Tampa, all in states where Aetna’s existing insurance footprint and the new care offerings can be combined to create new benefit designs and consumer engagement approaches.

In a wide-ranging discussion of the company’s future strategies, CVS executives also outlined plans for delivering home-based dialysis, expanded in-store primary care services, and further expansion of virtual care. In sum, CVS is banking on its ability to lower care costs for health plan enrollees and increase use of its clinic services to grow incremental revenue by $850M in the next three years, and $2.5B longer term.

We continue to view CVS as an entirely new kind of healthcare delivery company, bringing together convenient, lower-acuity care services and a risk model that will allow it to prosper by reducing the cost of care and building consumer loyalty. The speed of CVS’s rollout of this new value proposition should be a wake-up call to traditional healthcare providers everywhere.