New federal funds likely to spark additional growth in hospital-at-home programs across the US while creating need for clinical laboratories to serve these homebound patients
In one of the latest examples of health systems’ providing acute care to patients outside of traditional hospital settings, Orlando Health announced its launch of the Orlando Health Hospital Care at Home program serving central Florida.
Clinical laboratory testing is included in the program, which is currently being offered to Medicare and Medicaid patients of Orlando Regional Medical Center and Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital.
According to an Orlando Health press release, “The Orlando Health program is the first in Central Florida to be approved for Medicare and Medicaid patients, with future plans to expand the service for patients with private insurance and at other Orlando Health locations. It is an extension of a federal initiative created during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to increase hospital capacity and maximize resources.”
Orlando Health is a not-for-profit healthcare system with 3,200 beds at 23 hospitals and emergency departments. It is the fourth largest employer in Central Florida with 4,500 physicians and 23,000 employees. Its Hospital Care at Home program serves patients who meet clinical criteria with 24/7 telehealth remote monitoring and virtual care from the Orlando Health Patient Care Hub. In-person nursing visits are also offered daily, according to Orlando Health.
“Orlando Health wanted to be able to provide a different level of care for its patients and give them a different opportunity to be cared for other than the brick-and-mortar of the hospital,” Linda Fitzpatrick (above), Assistant Vice President for Advanced Care at Orlando Health told Health News Florida. “We’ll have decreased infectious rates in their homes, decreased exposures. It is a healthier and happier place to be in order to heal.” Clinical laboratories in the Orlando area will have the opportunity to serve healthcare providers diagnosing patients in non-traditional healthcare settings. (Photo copyright: Orlando Sentinel.)
Lowering Costs and Avoiding In-hospital Infections, Medical Errors
Treating patients at home, even after inpatient visits, can save them money. At the same time, patients are more comfortable in their own homes and that contributes to faster recoveries.
“[We’ll be able to measure] heart rate, respiration, temperature, and blood pressure. We’ll also do video conferencing from that location with the patient. We’ll have nurses going to the patient’s home at least twice a day,” interventional cardiologist Rajesh Arvind Shah, MD, Senior Medical Director of Hospital Care at Home, Orlando Health, told Health News Florida.
Orlando Health patients can be safely treated in their homes for many conditions including:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
- Urinary tract infection,
- Heart failure,
- COVID-19 infection,
- Pneumonia, and
According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), “many are seeing the hospital-at-home model as a promising approach to improve value. … This care delivery model has been shown to reduce costs, improve outcomes, and enhance the patient experience. In November 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services launched the Acute Hospital Care at Home program to provide hospitals expanded flexibility to care for patients in their homes.”
Hospital-in-the-Home (HITH) is considered by many experts to be safer for patients, as they are not exposed to nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections, falls, and medical errors. In its landmark “To Err is Human” report of 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimated that medical errors killed as many as 98,000 patients in hospitals annually.
Dark Daily has often reported on HITH programs.
In “Hospital-in-the-Home Shows Promise for Reducing Acute Care Costs; Medical Laboratories Face Uncertainties Concerning Expanding Services to In-Home Environments in Support of Care Providers,” we reported how doctors at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital in Boston had chosen to treat a 71-year-old pneumonia patient with a weakened immune system in her home rather than admitting her into the hospital and risking exposing her to germs and infection vectors. The patient recovered fully within days.
In “Two US Studies Show Home-based Hospital Care Lowers Costs while Improving Outcomes and Patient Satisfaction,” Dark Daily reported on a year-long proof-of-concept trial involving 323 patients at Presbyterian Healthcare Services in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The study found patients of their hospital-based home care program achieved savings of 19% when compared to costs of similar hospital acute care patients.
And in “Australia’s Hospital-in-the-Home Care Model Demonstrates Major Cost Savings and Comparable Patient Outcomes,” we predicted that wider adoption of that country’s HITH model of patient care would directly affect pathologists and clinical laboratory managers who worked in Australia’s hospital laboratories. Having more HITH patients would increase the need to collect specimens in patient’s homes and transport them to a local clinical laboratory for testing, and, because they are central to the communities they serve, hospital-based medical laboratories would be well-positioned to provide this diagnostic testing.
New Federal Funds for HITH Programs
One recent impetus to create new HITH programs was the passing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (HR 2617). The federal bill includes two-year extensions of the telehealth waivers and Acute Hospital Care at Home (AHCaH) individual waiver that got started during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of March 20, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) listed 123 healthcare systems and 277 hospitals in 37 states that had been approved to use the AHCaH wavier.
Now that federal funding for AHCaH waivers has been extended, more healthcare providers will likely start or expand existing HITH programs.
“I think [the renewed funding] is going to allow for additional programs to come online,” Stephen Parodi, MD, Executive Vice President External Affairs, Communications, and Brand, Permanente Federation; and Associate Executive Director, Permanente Medical Group, told Home Health Care News.
“For the next two years, there’s going to be a regulatory framework and approval for being able to move forward. It allows for the collection of more data, more information on quality, safety, and efficiency of these existing programs,” he added. Parodi also oversees Kaiser Permanente’s Care at Home program.
Labs without Walls
Clinical laboratories can play a major role in supporting HITH patients who require timely medical test results to manage health conditions and hospital recovery. Lab leaders may want to reach out to colleagues who are planning or expanding HITH programs now that federal funding has been renewed.
—Donna Marie Pocius
Where Hospital-at-Home Programs Go Next
Orlando Health Launches Hospital Care at Home Program
Some of Orlando Health’s Patients Can Now Receive Hospital Care at Home
How AI, Digital Health, and Home-Based Services Can Help Prevent Hospital Readmission
CMS: Acute Hospital Care at Home Individual Waiver Only (not a blanket waiver)
CMS: Approved Facilities/Systems for Acute Hospital Care at Home
To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System
Hospital-in-the-Home Shows Promise for Reducing Acute Care Costs; Medical Laboratories Face Uncertainties Concerning Expanding Services to In-Home Environments in Support of Care Providers
Two US Studies Show Home-based Hospital Care Lowers Costs while Improving Outcomes and Patient Satisfaction
Australia’s ‘Hospital in the Home’ Care Model Demonstrates Major Cost Savings and Comparable Patient Outcomes