Family doctors have been campaigning for more care at home for years. These calls have now come true.
In fact, other health care players have tried to move more care into the home, but operational hurdles and inevitable gaps in supply made this mission seemingly impossible. But now the home health industry is ready, Heather Cox, Chief Digital Health and Analytics Officer at Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM), argued in a recent Boston Globe op-ed.
What brings them there, in their opinion, is the expanded capabilities of Humana and other providers when it comes to data, analysis and general offerings for the home.
“The healthcare industry now has powerful tools to apply to home healthcare,” Cox wrote in the statement.
Humana, based in Louisville, Kentucky, is one of the largest Medicare Advantage (MA) insurers in the country. It is also one of the largest home health care providers through the complete acquisition of Kindred at Home, valued at $ 8.1 billion, which closed on August 18.
In addition to its in-house capabilities, Humana also has partnerships with GP Heal and GP DispatchHealth.
“Thanks to the careful and thoughtful analysis of population-level data, often assisted by machine learning, … it has become possible for providers to offer personalized treatment strategies for each individual patient,” wrote Cox. “New approaches to home health care, such as emergency home care, are making the patient experience more comfortable than ever. These developments have the potential to change the time patients spend in contact with the healthcare system and the resulting outcomes. “
The challenge is to have all parts of a health system – one that increasingly treats people at home – work together.
Solutions for this, says Cox, come quickly.
In the end, Humana used artificial intelligence to find seniors who might need help with access to adequate health care. She found even more evidence that social determinants of health (SDoH) remain a pressing issue nationwide.
“Many people said that access to nutritious food was a serious problem,” wrote Cox. “Similarly, after hearing that many had struggled with loneliness through social distancing, Humana worked with organizations like Papa to alleviate the isolation by matching seniors with younger caregivers.”
Miami-based Papa is an innovative corporate company that sends “Papa Pals” to retirement homes to provide socialization and other non-health services.
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Humana also delivered more than 1.5 million meals to seniors across the country facing food insecurity.
The ability to reach and learn more about patients’ health status will enable providers to better care for them at home. Studies still show that the vast majority of patients in old age would like to be cared for at home. Almost 90% of seniors want to age on the spot, according to a recent study by Capital Caring Health and WebMD.
“A combination of understanding patient needs and comprehensive services to meet them will help create the quality of care older adults deserve,” wrote Cox.
The range of home nurses had to grow during the COVID-19 crisis in order for them to survive. The use of telemedicine, for example, rose sharply – up to a usage rate of 32% of less than 1% before the pandemic.
More telemedicine will make it easier to access and improve data through additional points of contact, but it will also reveal additional SDoH problems such as the lack of broadband access.
“Such digital tools do not replace doctors or traditional care offers. The trend in healthcare innovation is not to replace human-to-human interaction, but rather to complement it by making health services more convenient for patients, ”wrote Cox. “Exciting digital developments in healthcare come with an industry responsibility to stand up for the 42 percent of older Americans who do not have adequate broadband in their homes.”