Doctor talks to senior using as walker as he walks out of the office

New data from care coordination platform CarePort found a 14% increase in patients leaving skilled nursing facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, the number of referrals to home healthcare increased 33%.

CarePort tracked patients at more than 500 skilled nursing facilities between July of 2020 and September of 2021 and found 90% of patients discharged during that time opted to go home, while only 10% went to assisted living facilities. 

CarePort founder and CEO Lissy Hu told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse the COVID-19 pandemic and new reimbursement models likely accounted for the move from skilled nursing facilities to home-based care.

Lissy Hu

“As health plans and the government recognize that home can be a lower cost and equally high quality option for the elderly population, there has been a ballooning of programs, such as adult day care, PACE and more reimbursement for personal care,” Hu said.

CarePort works with more than 1,000 hospitals and 110,000 home-and-community-based service programs nationwide, tracking patient transitions across the continuum of care. 

As demand has increased for home health and home care services, Hu said hospitals are increasingly partnering with agencies to provide post-acute services following discharge. However, she said the worker shortage is becoming a barrier to continued growth for the industry. 

“We are seeing it perhaps most pronounced on the home health side where hospitals are saying sometimes an agency can’t see the patient until a week or two from the referral date, which delays discharges because you can’t just send a patient home with no services. You have to have somebody on the other side,” Hu said.

Hu speculated the worker shortage might have influenced the 6% increase in hospital readmission rates among home healthcare patients during the pandemic. Increased readmissions could put home health agencies at a competitive disadvantage against skilled nursing facilities if the worker shortage isn’t addressed.

“We want to support patients in their preference and choice for home-based care, but at the same time we have to be thinking really carefully about all of the services the skilled nursing facilities provide,” Hu explained. You get home health, you get physical therapy, you get a doctor to come see you. At home all of these pieces have to be arranged a la carte and they have to be done in a timely manner.”