Therapists provide the critical benefit of ongoing, in-home care to patients who have recently been discharged from the hospital, are dealing with chronic conditions, or need specialized assistance to improve long-term outcomes.
The challenge? Even pre-pandemic, only 54 percent of those referred to home health services actually utilized these care providers.1 COVID-19 has compounded the problem by limiting the ability of therapy staff to deliver in-home care; while many companies are making the shift to telehealth solutions, there’s understandable concern that therapy-at-a-distance won’t meet expectations around functional impact, total cost, and overall patient satisfaction.
Telehealth for Home Health Rehab Therapy
According to a recent study conducted by Focus on Therapeutic Outcomes (FOTO), however, care delivered using telehealth can be just as effective as in-person care and even more efficient. Here are four benefits of telehealth for rehab therapists who care for patients in their homes:
1) Improved COVID-19 Safety
After analyzing more than 40,000 care episodes, the FOTO study found that outpatient therapy care episodes utilizing telehealth were equally effective for improving patients’ physical function as care given in-person. While this data was gathered from outpatient therapy settings, home health rehab specialists might consider generalizing the results to their settings. Implementing telehealth may help prevent COVID-19 infection of patients and family members, as well as the therapy provider by enabling the provision of care from a distance.
2) Enhanced Efficiency
The FOTO analysis also discovered that on average, episodes of care involving telehealth required 2-3 fewer visits, suggesting that virtual care may help support greater efficiency for therapy episodes of care. Getting homecare patients better, faster, can free up home care clinicians’ schedules to be able to care for more patients who need in-home services. Further, with the advent of value-based reimbursement upon us, home health agencies may be better equipped to demonstrate value to payers.
3) Satisfied Patients
Patient satisfaction is a critical metric for therapy providers in home health — if patients and their caregivers aren’t pleased with the process from start to finish, opportunities for practice growth are severely limited. For some, fear of reduced patient/family satisfaction may have hampered the uptake of telehealth initiatives, but according to the FOTO data, patients were equally satisfied with care, regardless of whether any visits happened via telehealth.
4) Streamlined Accessibility
For home health providers, these research findings can help pave the way for a long-term, post-COVID opportunity to streamline accessibility by allowing patients in rural communities or with limited opportunities for care to schedule telehealth therapy visits on-demand.
COVID-19 has permanently changed healthcare with the rapid and sometimes rocky adoption of telehealth offerings — but this shift has also opened the door to operational advantages for home care such as improved safety, improved efficiency while maintaining quality and patient satisfaction, and enhanced accessibility.
Net Health can help streamline operations for contract therapy companies with comprehensive document sharing, collaboration, and billing functionality. Explore the advantages of Optima Therapy for Home Health.
1) Home Health Care News, “Half of Patients Referred to Home Health Don’t Receive Services — But Providers Can Change That”, October 6, 2020.