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Humana, WellSky Leaders Offer Perspective on Latest Home-Based Care Trends

Humana (NYSE: HUM) continues to bet on the home as a main site of care.

In addition to its multi-billion dollar purchase of Kindred at Home , the insurer has also formed partnerships with home-focused companies such as Heal , DispatchHealth and Papa , among others.

Dr. Amal Agarwal, the VP of home solutions for the Louisville, Kentucky-based Humana, already sees that bet paying off. And it’s not only in his work with Humana, but also on the ground during his time practicing medicine part time.

“I think there’s patient demand. Also, there’s just a natural fear now, especially over the last 12 months, of any sort of brick-and-mortar establishment,” Agarwal said recently at Home Health Care News’ FUTURE conference. “I’m seeing patients ask for home care, and that’s what’s really interesting. They’re saying, ‘Do I really need to stay in the hospital? Can this be done in the home?’ You have patients asking for it, you have physicians asking for it and payers wanting it. So I think the natural pendulum shift is [underway].”

Over the course of the public health emergency, that desire has been reflected in the statistics.

Skilled nursing facility (SNF) referrals plummeted, as did home health referrals for a period. But as some semblance of normalcy resurfaced, the numbers no longer looked like they did before.

“Pre-COVID, you saw an even split between referrals going to SNFs and home health,” Bill Miller, the CEO of Wellsky, said at FUTURE. “There were obviously big changes in volume during March, April and May of last year, and then it all started creeping back. But it creeped back in different ways. We saw SNF referrals drop, and they didn’t come back the same way. That 50-50 split is now settling, where SNFs are getting 35% to 40%, and the rest is going to home health.”

Overland Park, Kansas-based WellSky is a post-acute technology company that utilizes software and analytics to help providers across the continuum achieve better outcomes at lower costs.

The company works with 20,000 home health agencies, which gives it a unique perspective on health care system trends.

That exact split won’t necessarily be long-lasting, and Miller emphasized that there is still a prominent place in post-acute care for SNFs. But providers’ willingness to continue to explore home-based options is helping sustain what were once considered temporary, pandemic-related changes.

“We’re watching it being sustained today because some of the outcomes are starting to support that we can actually … take the higher acuity patients into the home, and so I don’t see that slowing down,” Miller said. “I don’t ever say normal, because I don’t think we’re going to get back to a ‘normal’ necessarily – but an adjusted, new normal instead – and that’s what we’ve seen happen across our networks.” Humana’s integrated network

Agarwal says that 60% of the patients he currently sees in the emergency room do not need to be there. The issue often is that there is nowhere else for them to go.

In the future, however, that place could […]

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