It has been a rough start to 2022 with the onset of the COVID-19 Omicron variant spreading like wildfire. This alone makes it difficult to predict what will happen in the coming months. As the public health emergency drags on, it creates a domino effect of changes, both good and bad, for home health.
Notwithstanding, there is the probability of 2022 being the fruitful year for home health, as it continues to play a crucial role in healthcare amidst the pandemic. The public’s new appreciation and awareness about home health highlights the value it brings.
Nevertheless, home health is definitely not without its challenges. Let us take a quick look at what these might be, and the opportunities at hand.
Hurdles to Tackle
In the 2021 Outlook Survey by Home Health Care News (HHCN), 59% of the respondents said that staffing remains their single-most challenging aspect of home health operations. With the onset of COVID-19, healthcare demand has increased drastically, overwhelming the supply of clinicians. With the way things are going, staffing challenges are expected to continue well into 2022 or even longer.
Amidst the staffing issues are opportunities for growth that agencies can pursue. Many are taking advantage of outsourcing clinical back-office functions. With the right outsourcing support, home health businesses can optimize their in-house clinical workforce for actual patient care.
Last year, there was a global supply chain strain, from a transportation crisis to a shortage of raw materials, which has affected the healthcare system, including access to durable medical equipment (DME). Economists are predicting that this issue is not going away anytime soon this year, with both limited product availability and increases in prices. Apart from a deliberate effort to prioritize medical equipment, industry advocates have called for the creation of a “fast pass” system to address this. It is supposed to speed up the movement of medical supplies and add space on containers and sea freight.
Opportunities for Growth
Mergers and Acquisitions
2021 saw a spike in the healthcare economy, and it is expected to continue progressing this year with increased mergers and acquisitions. The two main factors driving this activity are liquidity in the market and a continued retirement of baby boomers, who own most of the companies in the U.S.
The pandemic has opened up a lot of opportunities for telehealth out of necessity, mostly. According to the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, what we need to look out for is if telehealth waivers will be extended beyond the public health emergency. Also, there may be opportunities for growth in complex rehab technology and home infusion in 2022, as well as the possibility of expansion efforts for palliative care.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the Home Health Value-Based Purchasing (HHVBP) model nationwide expansion in its recent final rule. Throughout this year, CMS will provide technical guidelines and assistance to HHAs on how performances will be assessed for the first performance year of HHVBP set for CY 2023.
Further guidance about the new OASIS-E is also anticipated to be released this year. With OASIS-E implementation also set for January 1st, 2023, we expect CMS will release more information on how HHVBP will be reflected in it.
Equipped for What is to Come
While it is still a bit early to see completely what 2022 brings for home health, it is never too early to prepare. With what is on the horizon, agencies must be equipped and ready to navigate the ever-changing home health landscape. From a business viewpoint, agencies need to have strategies in place that will allow continuous business growth amidst potential setbacks. Critical to this are focus on the core business function, which is patient care, and getting specialized support for other key processes.