The nation’s largest nursing home advocacy group yelled after July Introducing the Choose Home Care Act of 2021, a law aimed at moving more care into the home.
The group’s quick criticism of Choose Home only added to the “Nursing Homes versus Home Health” narrative that was repeatedly raised during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But while home health authorities are often portrayed as enemies of skilled nursing homes (SNSFs) and other institutional facilities, in reality they are more likely to be allies of post-acute care, industry leaders say.
“It’s an addition,” said Chris Chirumbolo, CEO of Carespring, during the Skilled Nursing News Rethink conference in Chicago last week. “I do not see [home health care] as a major threat. “
Carespring operates more than a dozen qualified nursing and rehabilitation facilities in Ohio and Kentucky, including assisted living and independent living in this portfolio. In addition to its stationary locations, the company is part of a home health joint venture in Buckeye State.
Rather than looking at home care as something that sucks volume out of its facilities, Carespring sees it as the preferred option for patients with less visual acuity, explained Chirumbolo.
“I wish everyone, especially those in need of care, could be at home,” he said. “But you can’t [be]. And when you walk down the hall and look at the assessment of each person’s problems, from ADLs to medication needs to comorbidity management, a lot of these patients … I just don’t see this person at home. But I am a staunch advocate of homecoming. “
Chirumbolo isn’t the only SNSF manager who thinks that way.
“I think [home health] is an addition. It’s not a competitor, ”said Tim Fields, CEO of Ignite Medical Resorts, at Rethink. “For the most part, home health needs to improve their game, just like we had to.”
Ignite Medical Resorts is an Illinois-based post-acute care facility operator. The company has tried to reinterpret the traditional post-acute experience through its high-end “luxury resorts”.
Fields has seen the effects of the SNSF home diversion over the past few years, with “light” rehab cases and orthopedic patients being referred to home health authorities more often. But facility-based attitudes will always matter for complex, highly acute individuals, he said.
“Home care needs to step up their game,” Fields said. “We give them a patient with high visual acuity and they come by once or twice. This patient goes back to the emergency room and starts the whole cycle from the beginning. And so I really see [home health] as a supplement. I joked with someone where I said, ‘Come in and find everyone to take home with you right away. Go ahead and have them. ‘ I mean, most of the people we get are pretty sick. And I think the hospitals will of course send the people who qualify for home care and can be successful at home. “
Recommended HHCN + exclusives
Mike Bailey, the CEO of American Health Partners, confirmed this opinion.
American Health Partners, based in Franklin, Tennessee, operates a few dozen SNSFs through its American Health Care branch, but also offers a wide range of other services, from home health and hospice to psychiatric care and an organization for nurses. The company serves 12,000 people annually in nine states, mostly in the south.
American Health Partners is also an example of an SNSF operator with an in-house home health service, which was a huge strategic advantage during the pandemic, Bailey said at Rethink.
“We were already on the way to diversification. We were also well on our way to admitting a more complex or acute patient to a qualified facility, ”he said. “COVID accelerated that for us. And we took the opportunity there to look at ourselves and say, ‘What can we do to be ready to take the sicker patients into our facilities and let the less sick into the home’, which is the trend today . And to be honest, that fitted well into our business plan. “