When it comes to the pandemic, the word “positive” doesn’t have a great reputation. For hospice and home health providers especially, rising COVID positivity rates and ensuing restrictions created substantial challenges. According to a recent study of pandemic impacts on U.S. hospice agencies, nearly one-third of providers reported negative effects on patient outcomes related to inadequate symptom management and psychosocial effects.1
As pandemic pressures begin to recede, however, some hospice and home health positives have emerged. One of the most fundamental — and function — is telehealth.
The Rise of Telehealth Solutions
While many health providers were testing telehealth solutions prior to the pandemic, these “nice to have” technologies quickly became essential for organizations to stay on track. Research firm McKinsey notes that digital adoption took a “quantum leap” during the pandemic as companies were forced to pivot operations ASAP. Survey data found that among health care providers, telehealth adoption rose from 43 percent to 98 percent during the first wave of the pandemic. 2,3
First used as stopgaps, these digital connections quickly became indispensable in helping clinicians connect with patients, caregivers deliver reassurance and specialists provide continuing care. A recent piece in Nature puts it simply: Telehealth is here to stay.4
Key Benefits of Telehealth for Hospice and Home Health Care
Integrating telehealth solutions offers three key benefits for compassionate care providers:
- Improved return on investment (ROI)
Compared to other technology solutions, such as predictive analytics and electronic medical record (EMR) systems, telehealth now takes the top spot for ROI, with 47 percent of hospice providers saying it will outpace other investments this year.5 It makes sense: Along with the ability to connect with patients anytime, anywhere, telehealth removes much of the complexity around scheduling while also improving patient safety.
- Enhanced patient connections
Telehealth solutions, such as synchronous meetings and asynchronous videos, can help patients in home health or hospice settings feel more connected with their caregivers. Given that 90 percent of hospice patients reported an increase in loneliness and 25 percent said their mental health declined as the pandemic wore on these digital, social connections are more critical than ever.6
- Increased flexibility
Telehealth tools also offer a way for hospice and home health providers to stay ahead of the curve as public health priorities shift from acute pandemic response to endemic disease management. For some patients, this move is a welcome change, while others remain concerned about the possibility of infection and potentially severe reaction. Telehealth visits allow home health and hospice providers to meet patients where they’re most comfortable and help them make the transition from purely virtual to partly (or fully) in-person on a timeline that works for them.
Navigating the Next Normal
From operational changes to staffing challenges and compassionate care burnout, the pandemic has put massive stress on hospice providers. But it’s not all bad news — rapid shifts in practice have led to positive impacts such as the rise of agile and adaptable telehealth solutions.
Curious about other post-pandemic positives in the “next normal” compassionate care? Check out our new eBook — Finding the Favorable: Five Positive Impacts of COVID-19 for Hospice and Home Health Care.
Finding the Favorable: 5 Positive Impacts of COVID-19 for Hospice and Home Health Care
1 National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), “COVID-19 Pandemic Impacts on U.S. Hospice Agencies: A National Survey of Hospice Nurses and Physicians,” January 27, 2021.
2 McKinsey & Company, “How COVID-19 has Pushed Companies Over the Technology Tipping Point—and Transformed Business Forever,” October 5, 2020.
3 National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), “The Health Center Program and Increasing Access to Comprehensive Care Through the Use of Telehealth: An Update During COVID-19,” June 2020.
4 Nature, “Telehealth is Here to Stay,” July 15, 2021.
5 Hospice News, “Telehealth Promises Greatest ROI on Hospice Technology Investment,” April 19, 2021.
6 Hospice News, “Social Isolation a Threat to Hospice Patients During COVID-19,” October 21, 2021.