The pandemic has been especially hard for seniors. In the beginning, the virus spread through senior living communities at a breakneck speed, forcing many older adults to live in isolation, apart from their families and caregivers. Now, with the CDC reporting that 89% of those 65 plus are fully vaccinated, life is returning to normal for older Americans, with protective protocols still in place.
One bright spot during the pandemic months has been the increase of in-home hospital care for patients, which brought the hospital to them instead of venturing out to get treatment. Hospitals and health care facilities implemented this practice due to the COVID public health emergency (PHE). The Advanced Care at Home Coalition is working to keep this model in place past the PHE to facilitate continued at-home care, especially for older adults who may have mobility challenges or other issues that keep them from easily leaving home.
What is the Advanced Care at Home Coalition?
With a goal of “amplifying and advancing a federal strategy to create an advanced care at home delivery mode,” the coalition is composed of three founding members: the Mayo Clinic, Medically Home (a hospital at-home company), and Kaiser Permanente.
Other members include:
- Adventist Health
- Geisinger Health
- Johns Hopkins Medicine
- Michigan Medicine (affiliated with the University of Michigan)
- Novant Health
- Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group
- UNC Health
- UnityPoint Health
“Offering acute-level, hospital-quality care at home allows physicians and care teams to treat a whole person to meet their individualized care goals, while also helping address some of the social determinants of health,” said Stephen Parodi, MD, executive vice president of The Permanente Federation, part of Kaiser Permanente, as reported by PR Daily. “This coalition supports a policy foundation for this more equitable future of health care.”
What does the Advanced Care at Home Coalition want?
The coalition wants to see the at-home care model that was used during COVID become a standard form of treatment. Specifically, the group wants to see the development of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Innovation Center model to test an advanced care at-home delivery model.
“This model will finally allow underserved patients safe and cost-effective access to care that is long overdue,” added Rami Karjian, CEO of Medically Home. “We look forward to working with Congress to expand access to this safe and effective model of care delivery.”
And the data gathered from using the “hospital at home” model during the pandemic – which was implemented out of necessity – shows the value of extending it, writes the Coalition members:
“While these circumstances presented challenges, they also provided the opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of providing acute-level care at home to patients on a greater scale. The preliminary data gathered during this experience demonstrated positive results—including significantly reduced hospital readmissions, increased patient satisfaction, reduction in hospital-acquired infections, and potential reduction in cost.”
Yet, not all medical professionals are in agreement. National Nurses United, the largest organization of registered nurses in the United States, as well as the California Nurses Association, have expressed concern and released a statement criticizing the Coalition’s plan for more at-home treatment. Their statement asserts that nurses spend more time than anyone with patients, and moving from in-person to home-based care via iPads, video calls, and other electronic communications could result in more errors and lax treatment.
What comes next?
The Advanced Care at Home Coalition has written a letter to Congressional leaders imploring them to extend the Acute Hospital Care at Home Act. It will continue to communicate with government leaders to encourage them to make this model a permanent part of the American health care system.
“An extension of two to four years would allow for the safe continuation of the program,” the group wrote, “and provide an opportunity for evaluation of additional data as CMS considers broader scale adoption of this care option for beneficiaries.”