DALLAS (November 8, 2019)—What will the “new normal” look like for the home health industry in and after 2020?

That question was a focus for attendees at the annual PointClickCare SUMMIT held in Dallas Texas, Nov. 4–6, 2019. Between the Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM), which is set to begin Jan. 1, 2020, the Review Choice Demonstration and other regulatory changes, 2020 promises to be a busy year for the industry.

“The pace of change within the senior care market is undoubtedly accelerating,” said PointClickCare CEO Mike Wessinger. “While the degree of change may bring with it a level of uncertainty, it also presents an opportunity to innovate and reimagine the sector and the way care is provided. This year, SUMMIT is focused on how technology is helping our customers thrive in the ‘New Normal’ of value-based care, and how it can further support them in the future as the industry-wide quality transformation evolves.”

What does all this change mean? Edwyn Vergeire, co-owner and administrator of Optimal Home Care, Inc. said that it should bring positive change.

“I see the market consolidating. I see it as an opportunity,” he said. “We’ve endured so many changes to the payment system. But it’s still an opportunity to grow.”

Large companies such as Amedisys and Interim Healthcare may be gearing up to buy in 2020, but Todd Montigney, managing director and founder of Blacktree Healthcare Consulting, said that doesn’t mean small agencies are doomed.

“They can’t win locally,” he told attendees. “You can build the referral relationships to build your company in a way that large companies can’t.”

The first quarter of 2020 is critical for providers, Montigney said. Agencies may see a 26% dip in revenue in January and a 43% dip in February, he said. It will likely take until March for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) to catch up with the claims, even following a six-day dark period at the start of the year.

“It’s important to understand how the changes will impact you,” said Greg VonArx, CEO of Recover Health. “We saw our revenue go down and thought it was due to community admissions and therapy visits. When we dove into the data, we were discharging patients too early.” Agencies are expected to average 1.77 visits under PDGM to every one under the Prospective Payment System.

Agencies are also facing a nursing shortage heading into 2020. As therapy reimbursement decreases under PDGM, therapy staff will see changes in their duties or expectations. Agencies will need to offer training and education to help with retention efforts.

“It’s a misnomer that people don’t like change. What they don’t like is the transition,” said Chad Fincher, co-owner and chief operations officer of Optimal Home Care, Inc. He advised agency owners to explore issues with their staff.

“Is it a training issue, a character issue or a heart issue?” he asked. Fincher defined character as closely viewing the jobs a staffer is most suited for. Someone who is miserable in the field may thrive in the office. Deeper “heart,” or attitude, issues can’t be fixed with training and reassignment, he said.

To help smooth the transition, PointClickCare announced improvements to the Care At Home clinical app. The app, designed for iOS devices, focuses on the clinician experience, so 80% to 90% of documentation can happen within the app. The company plans to pilot the improvements in early 2020 with a full launch including improvements for paraprofessionals in late fall.

PointClickCare, based in Toronto, Ontario, provides electronic health records to post-acute care agencies across North America. SUMMIT is an annual gathering of the company’s users and vendor partners for education, networking and fun. Mark Tomzack, PointClickCare’s executive vice president and general manager, noted that the company’s expansion into the homecare market has resulted in rapid growth—out of 2000 people present, 300 had home health in their portfolios compared to 30 four years ago.

—By Kristin Easterling, managing editor, HomeCare magainze