The long-term care industry has experienced many trends that have shaped care delivery models. Over the past two decades, consumer preferences have shifted toward aging in place, with more seniors opting for home-based healthcare services. Now, a number of industry players are spearheading efforts to create more options for seniors, including at-home skilled nursing facility (SNF) services. Will this new care model reshape the long-term care industry? Gaining an understanding of at-home SNFs is a valuable part of risk management for nursing homes, supplementing the protection of nursing home insurance and paving the way to continued success well into the future.
The At-Home SNF
Legislative efforts and shifting patient preferences have created demand for at-home healthcare services. More and more seniors rely on in-home visits by qualified caregivers, who assist with medical treatments and daily tasks like bathing, dressing, and meal preparation. The clinical/medical capabilities of these healthcare providers remain relatively limited, however, and that has spurred the development of the at-home SNF. Sometimes referred to as “hospitals without walls”, at-home SNF care providers are able to leverage technology to perform diagnostic and treatment services that were once only available by visiting a healthcare facility or by living in a nursing home.
Prior to the development of this model, many elderly patients were transferred to a skilled nursing facility to convalesce and to complete the recovery process after being discharged from hospital stays. Industry experts noted that a growing number of these people would be more comfortable at home and would opt for home-based recovery if skilled nursing services were available. The at-home SNF model makes those services not only available, but preferential.
Factors Driving Healthcare Trends
Long-term care industry analysts credit several factors with driving the development of more home-based healthcare services. These factors include:
- Proposed legislation favoring consumers who wish to age at home.
- Health care waivers.
- Patient preferences.
- Changes in regulations governing Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements.
The at-home SNF model was only beginning to gain traction within the healthcare sector until early 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic created unprecedented and fundamental healthcare delivery changes. Faced with an increase in infection risks and severe staffing shortages, healthcare operators scrambled to find solutions that would support the risk management strategies of nursing home insurance. The pandemic represented a significant risk; healthcare providers now had a major incentive to keep people out of healthcare facilities like hospitals or residential care centers to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The factors above ultimately influenced political leaders; as a result, 32 states have passed legislation allowing hospital care at-home services.
Leveraging Technology for At-Home Healthcare
As healthcare providers begin to expand their services for patients preferring to stay at home, technology has also played a major role. Hospital recovery programs gained access to certain technologies like portable ultrasound imaging devices, remote health portals, and health telematics/health monitoring systems. These allowed rapid expansion of certain services that were formerly delivered in hospital or clinic settings.
Nursing homes and skilled care facilities that wish to expand their services to include stay-at-home seniors must evaluate their current nursing home insurance policies. These policies may be modified to provide the needed coverage against emerging risks, particularly as new healthcare delivery models are introduced. At-home SNF services may also require investments in equipment, staff recruitment, and training programs. With each of these components in place, and with the protection of nursing home insurance, caregivers can provide essential medical services to patients no matter where they are located. T
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