BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (April 28, 2020)—Home health agencies need to be creative in their approach to doing business and caring for patients during the COVID-19 era, Interim HealthCare President and CEO Jennifer Sheets told HomeCare--including their approach to scheduling, personal protective equipment (PPE) and more.

That may mean making sure a clinician sees only COVID-19 patients, or, if that's not possible, that their coronavirus-positive cases are scheduled for the end of their shift to make sure they aren't visiting non-infected patients after infected ones, she said. Or maybe it's looking at a shortage of protective gowns and using disposable plastic raincoats instead for patients moving from the hospital to home.

"We are starting to be very creative as we are starting to care for covid 19 patients in the home. We’ve done a lot to make sure that we are minimizing the transmission of the virus," she said in an interview for the HomeCare Podcast. You can hear the entire conversation here.

The company, which has franchises serving 190,000 people each year, is also working on broad-based training for patients, caregivers and office staff, Sheets said. After all, she said, Homecare providers are well-acquainted with managing crises and preventing infection.

"The reality is this is what clinicians were made for and we’re trying to make sure they have all the tools available, all the education available to make sure they’re protecting themselves and their clients," she said.

Sheets said three areas of Interim’s business have dropped off: the care they provide in school systems, because schools are closed; non-skilled personal care services, which seem to have declined because adult children aren’t currently working and are able to handle basic caregiving services; and in some therapies, which aren’t getting new patients because elective surgeries are on hold.

But at the same time, some areas have increased, including providing staff to hospitals and nursing homes that need additional clinicians, and an increase in hospice referrals.

“That is one positive trend that we’ve seen come out of all of this is that people are transitioning to hospice at a more appropriate time,” rather than waiting too long to have end-of-life discussions, Sheets said.

"This really is a monumental time in the history of our nation’s health care system and it will forever change us," she said.