Frank De-Levi Discusses How COVID-19 Is Impacting Home Healthcare Services Across the United States

Lower Demand for Home Healthcare Providers

Despite a professional consensus that home healthcare is a markedly safer place to receive treatment amid COVID-19, demand for in-home care has been declining since the onset of the pandemic. According to a June survey from Home Health Care News, 90% of home health agencies have experienced a drop in revenue, with roughly two-thirds facing at least a 20% decline. As time passes and medical professionals learn more about COVID-19, new information on the virus’s spread gets released to the public. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes transmission occurs between individuals in close proximity (less than six feet apart), via droplets or tiny particles produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or breathes. “Beneficiaries of home services may not be aware of the safety measures put in place by home medical health agencies to protect them from the virus,” says Frank. Consequently, at-risk individuals are growing increasingly reluctant to allow “strangers” or home healthcare workers into their homes out of fear of infection. Similarly, individuals that require elective surgery are pushing operation dates into the future, with the hope that COVID-19 will be less of a threat at the time of their treatment. With fewer home visits and surgeries taking place, the need for home care workers is shrinking.

Shortage of PPE and Respiratory Services

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is equally necessary for home care workers as it is for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals that tend to patients. “Obtaining sufficient quantities of PPE has been challenging,” says Frank, “shortages experienced in other settings like hospitals and skilled nursing facilities have received a greater level of attention.” As primary caregivers for the most vulnerable populations, home care workers shouldn’t have to worry about equipment shortages threatening themselves and their clients. In general, health providers need better access to PPE, including gloves, facemasks, N95 respirators, eye protection, and gowns. One CBC article notes that desperate home care staff has even gone as far as purchasing their own masks and gloves, so they feel protected when they go into someone else’s home. Meanwhile, the CDC has developed a number of strategies for optimizing the supply of PPE during widespread shortages.

Reliance on Telehealth

Treating patients in long-term care facilities is becoming less feasible as a result of the pandemic. In New York, the epicenter of COVID-19 in United States, there are only 23,000 hospital beds available. As a growing number of individuals contract the virus, non-COVID patients must accept treatment for their ailments elsewhere. “Home-based care is the obvious solution,” explains Frank, “it’s cheaper and more convenient for individuals to be treated at home than stuck in an unpleasant hospital room.” Furthermore, as patients and caregivers become aware of the risks of close contact, communicating via Telehealth technology is helping to transform healthcare.

COVID-19 Screening

Roughly 4.5 million people used some form of home health services in 2016. This number doesn’t account for the fact that some patients require multiple visits from home care providers on any given day. Frank notes that some of their clients, especially those with debilitating illnesses like multiple sclerosis or Alzheimer’s disease, may need around the clock care. As such, some families cannot afford to suspend their home healthcare services. “At HomeAssist, we try to limit the number of private homes our health providers visit, thereby reducing the risk of exposure to the virus,” explains Frank.

The CARES Act

The House of Representatives passed a bill in late March, known as CARES, or the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,” which offers several advantages for home health care agencies. First and foremost, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has promised to allocate $100 billion to medical expenditures, lost revenue due to COVID-19, and uninsured patient care. In addition to providing much-needed financial aid, the Act gives agencies better flexibility to cope with and respond to the pandemic. In the past, only physicians were allowed to certify home health services. Thanks to the Act, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and clinical nurse specialists can decide patients’ eligibility for home care and establish a treatment plan. “This change will free up hospital capacity, reduce patient wait times, ease eligibility requirements for various care settings, and improve patient outcomes,” explains Frank. While the bill was born as a result of the growing COVID-19 crisis, home health providers like Frank and Kristina believe that these new provisions will leave a lasting impression on the home health industry.

Conclusion

Home healthcare is an essential service that millions of people rely on around the world. Agencies like HomeAssist Home Health Services are doing everything in their power to ensure their employees and clients are safe during these uncertain times. “Perhaps one of the outcomes of this horrific pandemic is the ability to identify problems in our health system and develop solutions for how we can improve care now and in the future.”

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Frank De-Levi

Frank De-Levi

Co-Founder of HomeAssist Home Health Services | Pacifica, CA | www. frankdelevi.com