According to a recent study, post-acute care (PAC) patient volumes decreased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The cancellation of elective surgeries and decrease in non-urgent hospital admissions were the biggest drivers for provider loss of revenue.
This was in part spurred on by the CMS guidelines recommending the cancellation or postponement of elective, non-essential procedures as well as patients’ apprehension for venturing into medical settings for non-urgent procedures.
As a result, overall healthcare utilization and spending level decreased as much as 40%. Although providers in value-based arrangements, such as ACOs and Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Advanced (BPCI-A) benefited from the lower utilization, providers in general face substantial short and long-term challenges.
The silver lining is that PAC providers have an opportunity to utilize healthcare trends brought on by the COVID-19 era to accelerate revenue and recoup lost margins. Insurance-covered telehealth options, as well as the added focus on infection prevention in PAC settings, were both key changes that providers can build upon.
Telehealth Advancements in Response to COVID-19
Telehealth claims notably increased during the pandemic, hitting their highest point in April 2020.
According to FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker, telehealth claim lines came in at 13% of all claims in April 2020, an increase of 8,336% nationally compared to April 2019.
Telehealth claims have since exhibited a downward trend for the rest of the year, but they continue to reflect double and high single digit increases over prior periods.
The increases should not come as a surprise, given the impact of the coronavirus on medical services and the payers expanding reimbursements for telehealth services. The question now becomes, how will providers maintain the gains made by telehealth advances post-pandemic? Are providers equipped with the right tools to support a wider-scale use of telehealth while also maintaining positive patient outcomes?
In a post-pandemic world, the post-acute care providers who are prepared to fully utilize telehealth and advanced monitoring tools to support patients will enhance their value and reduce cost. Appropriate and efficient use of telehealth and remote care can set post-acute care providers apart from the competition leading to an increase in referrals from acute hospitals and the community. PAC providers can expand the breadth of services they provide with telehealth and extend physician hours beyond the typical nine-to-five. Additionally, combining telehealth with interoperability and real-time data sharing capabilities allows PACs to further bolster their capabilities and drive better patient outcomes.
Post-acute care administrators can work closely with discharge planners at acute hospitals to help them refer patients with confidence.
Where Do Post-Acute Care Providers Go from Here?
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the need to support expanding and flexible healthcare responses for better patient management.
PAC providers can leverage new technology products with integration capabilities to capitalize on advancements made with telehealth during the pandemic. As most hospitals move away from manual processes, adapting to the technology and data-driven methods that streamline hospital-to-post-acute care transitions will be vital.
Post Acute Analytics (PAA) optimizes discharge pathways between acute and post-acute providers by identifying the appropriate level of care, facilitating communication, and allowing PAC providers to access critical information from the patient’s acute stay. PAA’s Partner Monitor platform aligns the patient’s needs to the best post-acute care provider via EHR integration with the hospital and a real-time PAC rating system.
PAC providers who have gained experience with digital communication and provider collaboration outside of the facility’s walls can demonstrate value to upstream partners via advanced clinical partnerships and differentiated outcomes. PAA’s platform helps PAC providers demonstrate this value and offers 24/7 telehealth physician coverage to skilled nursing facilities for those who would benefit from supplemental resources.
The framework for PAA’s Partner Monitor success combines technological advances with a partnership-based philosophy to ensure all parties are working together toward the common goal of improved patient outcomes.
Interested in seeing how these developments can support your hospital post-pandemic?