At-home care has been around for some time. But since the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States is seeing a larger and quicker shift of care into patients’ homes. Home care teams are utilizing telehealth technology, paramedics, registered nurses and even specialty providers to provide preventative and treatment-based care. So what does the future of at-home care look like? It will include expanding access to healthcare to the most vulnerable with an emphasis on compliance, decreased hesitancy and willingness of patients to take control of their health from the comfort of their homes.
At-home care is an effective way to reach homebound and underserved populations, of which a large number are seniors. Isolation and loneliness are two of the biggest challenges that the aging population faces. As people age, their social networks often shrink. For senior patients who don’t have family in town — or even in the state — bringing healthcare services directly to them is the best way to get them care.
As COVID-19 cases increase, vaccination efforts are now being deployed in the at-home care setting. While older adults were among the first to become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, nearly 1 in 5 seniors (65+) are still not fully vaccinated. Many don’t have transportation and are already facing challenges with getting access to basic daily necessities, like food and medication. Navigating a new vaccination environment (during the pandemic) is not something that they can do easily on their own.
Recently, OFFOR Health launched an at-home vaccination program that focuses on providing COVID-19 vaccinations to the most vulnerable in our communities, including seniors, homebound patients and those who do not have access to transportation to travel to a vaccine appointment. Following our mission to deliver equal access to care for all, we recognized a need to remove the barriers limited those from receiving. We stepped up to fill a gap in care to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to our most vulnerable populations and leverage our network and logistics as it the service is a natural extension of our capabilities.
It’s important to make the vaccines as accessible as possible. While vaccinated individuals can still get COVID-19, the sickest patients are generally those who aren’t vaccinated, and we’re seeing a rise in hospitalizations. This is especially concerning for seniors. Some 95% of COVID-19 deaths are 50 years of age or older and the risk increases for people aged 50 and older with those aged 85 and older being the most likely to get very sick. Providing more opportunities for people to get vaccinated is key to drive hospitalizations and community spread down.
At-home care is critical link
We believe that a key to increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates is at-home care. It will help get vaccines to more people who want the vaccine and cannot access it. At-home programs also reduce hesitancy to get the vaccine. The ability to have a one-on-one conversation with someone adds comfort and value to services.
OFFOR Health patients have been very excited to see the shift in healthcare to their homes. This is an environment where they are most comfortable, where they have their own resources, where they have less worry about transportation to an office or clinic, wait times, referrals to other providers’ locations, and time away from family and even caregiver duties. We are seeing more and more engagement monthly for patients seeking care and healthcare resources in their homes.
There is potential to build off vaccine programs, like the one from OFFOR Health, and offer additional services that patients may need. This poses the question: While at the patient’s home, what other healthcare services and access can we deliver? I think in this new world, we are going to explore these questions in greater detail.
Saket Agrawal is CEO of OFFOR Health.