Our weekly list of news, reports, and information about home health and hospice care. Learn about new studies, trends, CMS regulations and more.
Historically, home health providers and their partners throughout the continuum of care have struggled with interoperability. But during the COVID-19 public health emergency, it’s more crucial than ever to have timely and accurate information, industry insiders say. Broadly, interoperability is the capability of different information systems to connect across organizations in order to exchange individual or population health information. Home health agencies — the providers increasingly on the front lines of the coronavirus — have largely gained a reputation for being archaic when it comes to their interoperability efforts. Many have made significant strides in recent years, though hospital interoperability has, at times, remained a pain point, according to Scott Pattillo, chief strategy officer at Homecare Homebase (HCHB).
Amedisys, Inc. (AMED), one of the nation’s leading home healthcare, hospice and personal care companies, celebrates National Nurses Month by honoring more than 8,000 nurses who call the company home. Traditionally, National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. With the World Health Organization declaring 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, this celebration has been extended to the entire month. Amedisys is proud to recognize and applaud the home health, hospice and personal care nurses who provide compassionate, clinically distinct care throughout the 38 states we serve. “We know how essential our nurses are in caring for our patients every day, but this has never been more apparent than during the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated President and CEO Paul Kusserow. “Our nurses and clinicians have shown incredible courage and resilience in the face of this unprecedented crisis and continue showing up for our patients each and every day ready for the challenge.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has introduced a new crop of temporary regulatory flexibilities in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) in the form of new blanket waivers, implementing guidance related to provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Support Act (CARES Act) regarding rural health clinics (RHCs) and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), as well as a new interim final rule (April IFC). This flurry of new guidance comes exactly one month after CMS published an interim final rule on March 30 (March IFC). The new guidance sets forth a historic expansion of telehealth services by fully expanding the list of permissible telehealth providers, significantly broadening the availably of audio-only telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries, among other significant telehealth expansions. The new blanket waivers and the April IFC (except as otherwise specifically designated) are retroactively effective as of March 1, 2020. This article discusses the telehealth waivers and flexibilities in this most recent guidance from CMS aimed at making health care available to Medicare beneficiaries in a manner that keeps both providers and patients safe during the PHE.
Even as COVID-19 puts new staffing pressures on hospice and palliative care providers, organizations continue to wrestle with ongoing staffing shortages. While organizations respond to the pandemic, the business of hospice continues — including the need to control routine issues such as staff turnover. The United States has 13.35 hospice and palliative care specialists for every 100,000 adults 65 and older, according to an April 2018 study. The research estimated that by 2040 the patient population will need 10,640 to 24,000 specialists; supply is expected to range between 8,100 and 19,000. Hospice and palliative care providers also experience shortages in non-physician disciplines, including chaplains, nurses, and social workers. As far back as 2008, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS) began allowing hospice providers to use contracted nursing staff because not enough nurses were available to fill permanent positions.