Nurse taking care of mature male patient sitting on wheelchair in hospital. Young woman and old man wearing surgical face mask for protection of covid 19 pandemic.

As more care moves into the home, keeping seniors healthy and safe is paramount for both providers and payers. That is the goal behind Chicago-based Help at Home’s recently launched HealthyMatch program. It leverages the insights of caregivers to identify a client’s specific needs, whether that is better nutrition, fall prevention or mitigating loneliness. Based on a caregiver’s recommendation, nurses and social workers are then deployed into the home to assess how to better meet the client’s needs.

HealthyMatch is the brainchild of Help at Home Chief Clinical Officer Stephen Friedhoff, M.D., who joined the home care service provider last March. Friedhoff held a similar position for 12 years at health insurer Anthem. That gave him perspective on the value home care can bring to the healthcare continuum.

McKnight’s Home Care Daily recently talked to Friedhoff about the launch of HealthyMatch in two markets and how it could impact the trajectory of the company going forward.

McKnight’s Home Care Daily: What were you seeing at Anthem that gave you the idea for HealthyMatch?

Stephen Friedhoff, M.D.

Stephen Friedhoff: From the payers perspective it was very clear that the home — while it’s certainly talked about a lot — is significantly underutilized in terms of how we can impact health. So many programs are focused on hospitalizations, emergency room visits, visits to physician offices. Those are typically 15 minutes at a time, several times a year. So, what about the other 364 days of the year? When individuals were referred into home care, it was very difficult to understand the quality in those programs. From our perspective, individuals would sort of disappear into a black box. There was no easy way to measure quality, other than to see who landed in an emergency room and who had a readmission. One of the areas of focus for me is really trying to raise the quality bar on home care so that we can demonstrate that value.

McKnight’s Home Care Daily: While HealthyMatch deploys nurses and social workers to make assessments, caregivers are really at the heart of the program. Why is that?

Stephen Friedhoff: The average caregiver is with our clients 17 hours a week for a duration of four years and they become like family. Even though they’re not clinically trained and they’re not nurses, they observe. They notice when people aren’t eating as much, they notice when they’re not getting out of the house as much, they’re not as mobile or they seem sad. They are seeing things that if we know about them ahead of time, we can address it and that was the whole impetus for this program.

McKnight’s Home Care Daily: We’re hearing a lot about recruiting and retraining caregivers. Is this a way to empower caregivers?

Stephen Friedhoff: It absolutely is. Certainly, the demand for caregiver services is quite high. We’ve already been very fortunate that our turnover rate is half that of the industry on a national basis. But if our caregivers are more empowered, if they have alternatives, if they have lifelines that they can utilize in the organization rather than just calling 911 then they are not only more likely to stay with Help at Home. They are also more likely to refer a friend.

McKnight’s Home Care Daily: From a business perspective, how do you think HealthyMatch can move the needle for Help at Home?

Stephen Friedhoff: Right now home care is paid on a fee-for-service, number of hours basis. What we believe we are looking to prove is that if you layer on this additional care navigation action plan type of approach, then we can reduce emergency room visits, reduce falls, reduce hospitalizations and start to transition home care from something that is strictly fee-for-service based on the number of hours, to something that is also based on outcomes and value.

This article originally appeared on McKnight's Senior Living