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Another Voice: In-home health care enhances patients' quality of life

By Brach Myers

As a hub for business innovation, New York remains the epicenter of our nation’s economy. This is especially true when it comes to home health care, one of the fastest growing health care sectors in the country, which currently supports 275,000 jobs and annually treats nearly 172,000 Medicare lives statewide.

Instead of admission to a hospital or nursing home setting, more and more seniors are choosing to receive health care in their homes. In 2015, approximately 4.5 million Americans opted to take advantage of home health services, and it’s little wonder why. Many patients prefer to be treated in the security and privacy of their own homes – and with today’s technology, they can receive health care services beyond the traditional home health delivery of the past.

As the senior population grows, more Americans are expected to take advantage of home health. Research shows that the average lifespan has increased rapidly over the past several decades, and recent estimates project that the number of 80- to 85-year-olds will double within the next 20 years, or by roughly 5 percent annually.

Because older patients, particularly those 80 years and older, generally have the most complex health needs, this population represents an increasingly disproportionate share of Medicare spending. And because these older Americans account for one-third of all Medicare spending, despite making up less than one-quarter of all Medicare beneficiaries, there will be tremendous pressure to meet their growing needs while ensuring resources are spent as efficiently as possible.

Increasingly, leading in-home care providers are focusing on the natural care continuum and moving to a joint venture model – partnering with local hospitals to provide a broad spectrum of expertise and allowing each partner to focus on their strengths. Specifically, this means allowing hospitals to outsource their home health programs to home health agencies, freeing up funds to be better invested in acute care.

The care offered by home health agencies has proved to be high-quality, comprehensive, and safe. The same medical professionals you’d expect to see in a long-term care facility – physicians, specialists, nurses, and therapists – provide individual care tailored to each patient’s unique clinical and personal needs.

Taken as a whole, these services greatly enhance patients’ quality of life, prevent costly hospitalizations, reduce the risk of painful or deadly complications, and improve patient outcomes. This approach could be particularly useful in New York, where hospital readmission rates have ballooned to 15.5 percent – the seventh highest ranking in the U.S. – according to America’s Health Rankings.

We know that necessity is the mother of invention, and as home health agencies continue to expand their joint ventures with hospitals in New York and nationwide, patients, payers, and providers can expect to reap the benefits of an efficient health care system that works for everyone.

Brach Myers is senior vice president of strategic partnerships at LHC Group, a national in-home health care provider.

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