Another congestive heart failure (CHF) flare-up with the same treatment regimen — but this time, it looks different. There is no hospital gown, loud alarms, or harsh lights making it hard to sleep. Instead, you wake up at home, in your own bed and wearing your own clothes. Nurses visit twice a day in person. A physician calls, and you answer on the TV screen. Meals arrive at your doorstep. A medical technician comes by to take blood tests, creating a more manageable experience until your fluid-filled lungs can tolerate a visit to the office. A remote-care manager calls your landlord about the pest invasion in your kitchen. You’ll now be able to cook healthy meals in a clean kitchen rather than eating the sodium-heavy takeout that exacerbated your CHF in the first place.
We call this new care model “acute care at home.” It’s the reason I gathered with industry thought leaders and aspiring program directors at ICD Healthcare Network’s Hospital@Home Leadership Summit in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Eager to capitalize on a more holistic, personalized care model to drive down costs, improve patient outcomes, and free up beds for higher-acuity patients, speakers grappled with the ultimate question: How do we scale this model? With adoption slowly ticking up, challenges are building. Not the least of these: The model hinges on a coordinated delivery of a complex set of services and uncertain reimbursement under a current waiver that’s up for redetermination in 18 months.
Here are three key things that you should do now to plan for a successful acute care at-home program:
- Generate staff interest and patient awareness through marketing. This is a brand-new alternate care model. Begin to build interest among staff by holding open presentations and Q&A sessions online and onsite. And since most acute home-care admissions are through the emergency department (ED), double down on marketing to build awareness and education around your program. Make patients aware of the future care model through flyers hung throughout the ED, and provide them with QR codes that link to information on what patients can expect and where to go for questions.
- Know which services you can and cannot provide. Healthcare organizations require robust external partnerships to bring these programs to life, so develop a comprehensive list of all services and resources needed and determine what your hospital can do on its own and where you and your team will need to rely on third parties.
- Build a patient identification strategy. Anticipate resistance, as most patients will not initially consider receiving care at home. To recruit patients, you must first be able to identify who is appropriate and meets your criteria (i.e., acutely sick, safe home environment). Be prepared to create a strategy within existing ED and inpatient workflows that helps identify patients but does not overburden staff with new responsibilities.
No matter where you are on your acute care at-home mission, we are here to help. Stay tuned for our upcoming research on acute care at-home best practices. If you are participating or plan to participate in acute care at-home programs as a healthcare provider, payer, or technology service provider, we would love to speak with you about this research. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.