How are home health organizations experiencing and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic? To find out, MedBridge Board Member Mary Ann Christopher hosted a live webinar on April 1, 2020, with top home health executives April Anthony, CEO of Encompass Home Health and Executive Chairperson of the Board at Homecare Homebase; Michael Johnson, Home Health Practice President at BAYADA; and Monique Reese, Senior Vice President of Home and Community Care at Highmark Health.
In case you weren’t able to join us, here are some key takeaways from Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Panel Discussion with Home Health Leaders hosted by Mary Ann Christopher.
You can watch the full webinar here.
The Calm Before the Storm: Compression in the Census
Many home health organizations are currently seeing a compression in their census due to assisted living facilities not allowing entry and a reduction in elective and rehabilitation surgeries.
Mike Johnson compared the current situation to a tsunami: “Imagine sitting on the beach when the tsunami is on the way and the water begins to recede. This is us now in home health. We’re seeing a slowdown in referrals, as senior living facilities are in protect mode while hospitals are in prepare mode.”
Additional Top Impacts and Challenges
Our panelists named several other top impacts to their businesses as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These included:
- Staffing shortages due to quarantined employees, childcare challenges, and reluctance on the part of employees to put patients, themselves, or their families at risk.
- Difficulty accessing patients because of building restrictions, social distancing protocols, and patient anxiety.
- Protecting patients and employees. “How do we keep our employees encouraged, supported, enabled, and empowered to deliver safe, high-quality care to vulnerable patients, while also recognizing and empathizing with the realities they’re facing?” said April Anthony.
- Logistics, procurement, and training, including more time spent acquiring PPE and training staff on proper usage.
- The need for strong leadership and more intensive communication, including helping employees manage concerns through daily or weekly communications via email and social media. “I manage my own anxiety and my family’s, then that of 2000 employees who are worried about giving the virus to our patients and catching it. We’ll do everything we can with daily and hourly communication to help our employees stay tuned, calm, and safe. That’s been our focus,” said Johnson.
Preparing for the Surge with Telehealth
Home health organizations are anticipating a surge in patients as hospitals transfer more COVID-19 patients to their homes for safer recoveries or end-of-life care. The industry is currently looking to telehealth as a way to manage this surge.
Fast-tracking strategies such as triaged care. “We’re looking at how we can fast-track initiatives to respond to the emergency that’s in front of us. For example, triaging care for the population we have in place: Can it be telephonic, via video, or in person? We’re preparing for the surge by laying some foundational capabilities now,” said Monique Reese.
Leveraging telehealth now and in the future. “Moments of crisis are opportunities for business to rise and the future to be defined in a new way. This is our chance to learn what we can effectively do (via telephone and video). And it might change the game for the long haul,” said Anthony.
Our panelists offered closing advice that included:
Stay close to the data. With so many negative news stories and personal anecdotes to sift through, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. “Pay close attention to the data. Be suspect of it until you feel you can trust it, then do the right thing and act on it. When the media spins data to get a story, that’s dangerous,” said Johnson.
Remain calm. “In the words of the British during WWII: Stay calm and carry on. We have to maintain our calm in this moment of crisis and keep doing the work we do because it is essential,” said Anthony.
Lead with kindness and empathy. “Find a person-centered approach to leading and supporting individuals, families, and employees. Finding kindness and empathy and being able to lead through that lens is so important in this time,” said Reese.
To learn more about the home health industry’s response to COVID-19 and what you can do to protect your agency during this time, watch the full recording from last week’s discussion or check out our collection of free resources and innovative solutions to help you better respond to the crisis.