COVID-19 has impacted the healthcare industry in a multitude of ways, but perhaps none is greater than the normalization of care-at-home versus care-in-person. Telehealth utilization has grown massively, with five times more visits per week during the first peak of the pandemic than historically seen. Even as late as August 2020, new telehealth visits were three times higher than pre-COVID rates. Per the AHA, 81% of providers are still below in-person visit levels experienced prior to the pandemic. Projections expect rates to take about a year to return to normal, under the assumption we do not have another wave that results in closures. (Considering the current surge, it seems likely that it will take longer than a year.)
As the pandemic continues, the need to address care normally done in person, especially in a hospital, has also been a source of disruption. New approaches and their corresponding tools are being built and proposed to address the need. Recent start-ups are utilizing technology to allow providers, such as UPMC, the ability to manage patients more easily at home. This has been especially effective after surgery, leading to 76% lower readmissions than prior rates before using the technology. Other health systems are partnering with third party vendors to provide acute care services in the home. This model strives to drive down length of stay and admissions when compared to care provided at traditional facilities. This movement falls in line with recently published statistics showing that specialists were the biggest jump in using telehealth as they focus on managing both chronic and acute conditions. As providers scramble to find solutions to ensure the health and safety of their patients during this pandemic, telehealth and home health have come to the forefront as viable approaches.
In a recent interview, Medically Home’s executive chairman and co-founder, Raphael Rakowski, stated that the primary barrier to implementing value-based care-at-home is no longer model adoption, but the “…lack of a cohesive national strategy for payment.” After the impact COVID-19 has had on the healthcare market as a whole, it is clear this needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.