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SNF-at-Home Can be a Good Thing If You Embrace It

There is growing evidence that SNF-at-home will become a prominent piece of the senior care market in the coming years. We reported this in June in a blog post, Success of SNF-at-Home Will Hinge on the Quality of the Data.

This was confirmed by a recent discussion at a Skilled Nursing News RETHINK event and reported on their website.

SNFs have an Image Problem, Whether We Like it or Not

It was there before the pandemic. There are those few rogue operations that put money above care and everything else. This way of doing business gives the rest of the industry a black eye. As is typical, the government then overreacts, chiefly through CMS regulations, and politicians have something that gets them in front of a camera. It makes doing business difficult for the 99% of senior care operations that are out there doing a good job every day.

The pandemic didn’t make the image any better. Earlier this year, the New York Times reported that more than 181,000 residents and employees at SNFs died in the COVID pandemic. Even though the pandemic is weakening, that number has now topped 200,000. Families pulled their loved ones out of SNFs, and the post-acute care part of the business disappeared.

But Census Numbers are Creeping Back Up

As we reported last week in a CareWork blog post, SNFs: Maybe the Future Isn’t as Dim as We Think, SNF occupancy now sits at about 74.5% nationwide. That’s up from 67.5% at its lowest. We should see the industry back to 80% occupancy by 2023, where it was before the pandemic. Predictions are that census will keep climbing, too, perhaps to the mid-80 percentile range by 2024 or 2025. Plain and simple, it’s demographics. America is getting older.

But the image problems we’ve already spoken of and a growing desire for seniors to age in place are changing how the industry delivers services.

Part of the Solution

Drake Jarman, senior vice president of growth and development for Nashville-based Contessa Health, spoke at the Skilled Nursing News RETHINK event. He said, “If you are a high-quality SNF operator and you’re partnered with high-quality, in-demand health systems in one way or another, you’re always going to have a seat at the table.”

It's part of the realization that the SNF-at-home is part of the continuum of care as we move forward. Those nursing home operations that embrace it and figure out how to incorporate it into their services will prosper.

Fred Bentley of ATI Advisory, a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., spoke as part of the panel. Bentley’s observation: “This is a chance to not only capitalize on new business, but also portray yourself in a new light as we’re trying to find the most clinically effective best setting of care for patients, whether it’s in our facilities, or we’re in their homes – we can meet the patient. We are where they need us to be.”

Medicare Will Have to Respond, too

Medicare experimented with at-home services during the pandemic, and the results were encouraging, as reported in a CareWork blog post referenced at the beginning of this piece.

In March of 2020, as U.S. health officials were beginning to figure out a name for COVID, CMS came out with the Hospitals without Walls program. Hospitals could provide patient services in settings other than within the physical boundaries of the hospital.

By the end of 2020, CMS expanded the program to Acute Hospital Care at Home, allowing hospitals more latitude to treat patients at home.

Will CMS extend this program to cover senior care and LTPAC more specifically? One has to think that this is an inevitability, given a public and a patient base that is increasingly open to the concept of aging in place and is increasingly demanding it. The other motivator for CMS is a senior care industry that is responsibly adding in-home SNF to their continuum of services, either by making those services part of their offering or by partnering with a firm that specializes in providing in-home services.

Any Responsible Approach Comes Down to Data

Data will play a big part in the success of adding in-home care to the SNF mix. Whether scheduling, outcomes, census, or anything else, the data needs to be centrally gathered and interpreted to ensure the best outcomes.

CareWork brings together all the data centers and presents them in a format that is easy to understand and interpret. Reports are quick and easy to understand, a facet appreciated by everyone from regulators to management.

CareWork’s software platform pulls together all the data silos in your operations, whether you are an SNF, long-term care, or senior housing. CareWork provides leadership and management teams the ability to see vital information and make the best decisions.

Interested? Call us today or visit our website.

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