• Kimberly Hamilton

Homecare Agencies are Working to Find the Balance Between Caregivers and Patient Needs

In today’s unpredictable world of Covid-19, it can be a challenge to find the right caregiver/patient balance. There is no doubt that homecare agencies are struggling. Some homecare patient streams are increasing and some are decreasing. Patient streams and revenue that were coming from patients discharged from hospitals after surgeries have declined due to Covid-19 as fewer patients are opting for surgery and some hospitals have been closed for elective surgeries. In March, when hospitals stopped almost all surgeries, the revenue and stream started dropping. When most home health agencies noticed that their business was dipping due to Covid-19 Pandemic, they stopped relying on post-surgical care and turned more of their efforts to supporting seniors that were isolated at home. As with all businesses affected by the current pandemic is can undoubtedly be a challenging time to recover their lost revenues.

Roger Strode, the partner in the Chicago office of Milwaukee-based law firm Foley & Lardner said that any homecare agency where the work is based on episodical, post-surgical care is caught up in a bottleneck of halted hospital surgeries. He also said that it will take several months for this bottleneck to loosen up. But as the current economic scenario, it is more about wherewithal to get from here to there, primarily for small and less capitalized homecare agencies.

As the Covid-19 Pandemic hit, business plunged at Western States Home Health Care Agency Inc. With its headquarters in Westchester, it serves most parts of Los Angeles County, except the San Fernando Valley. Moreover, the agency also provides home health visits with a follow-up to hospital procedures. It includes changing surgical wound dressing as well as physical therapy. Patricia Farley, the clinical director designated for the Western States said that from serving 400 patients they came down to 275 patients in just 5 weeks. She also added that they had just 10 new patents and still they are long away from what they expected three months ago.

Each state has different laws and regulations on hospitals and elective surgeries. As Covid19 cases spike and hospital beds are in higher demand we will continue to see fewer post-surgery home care needs. For example, in Minnesota, they have executed a “Road map for surgeries during Covid-19.” This is entitled Executive Order 20-51 and list the following:

  • Assessment of risks and benefits of surgery or procedure

  • Utilize criteria and guidance from MDH, CDC, CMS and professional licensing boards regarding prioritization of procedures

  • Assessment and resources associated with the risk of COVID-19 transmission

  • Prioritize cases that pose a high risk to the patient if delayed

  • Consider the need for pre and postoperative care/resources including the risk of COVID-19 transmission

The CDC, Center for Disease Control, has a 14-day running report, by state, that shows the average daily change in percentage of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

The American College of Surgeons gives the following explanation as to way surgeries are being postponed:

  • Non-emergency procedures require personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and gowns. This equipment is in short supply right now and is desperately needed by health care providers in the hardest-hit areas caring for COVID-19 patients.

  • Patients and their loved ones or caretakers might have an undiagnosed case of COVID-19. This disease may be transmitted to the health care staff and others in the hospital.

  • All health care workers are needed to take care of patients infected by the virus and the critically ill already hospitalized. The health care workforce is already strained and will continue to be so in the weeks to come.

  • Operating rooms have ventilators (breathing machines) that may be needed to support COVID-19 patients rather than being utilized for elective procedures.

Photo: NJ Coronavirus: Hospital Discharges

Fine, H. (2020, May 26). Care Agencies Struggling | Los Angeles Business Journal. La Business Journal. https://labusinessjournal.com/news/2020/may/25/care-agencies-struggling-crisis-slows-new-patients

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