BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (December 29, 2020)—About 40% of homecare and other health care businesses are expecting to see their financial stability improve in 2021, according to a survey conducted by The Joint Commission.

The online questionnaire was held in September 2020, among health care organizations that work with The Joint Commission, Joint Commission Resources, Inc. and the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare to learn about the needs of organizations in the current and evolving pandemic environment. 

The questionnaire, administered by C+R Research, had a total 735 respondents representing a variety of health care settings, including hospitals, homecare, behavioral health and ambulatory care.

A total of 19% of respondents—the largest group after hospitals—were in the homecare category. Within that, 67% of respondents were in home health care, while 23% provide home medical equipment (HME) or durable medical equipment (DME). Three-quarters said they conducted 100 or fewer daily patient or client visits per day.

Of those who replied, 40% said COVID-19 had a “high” impact on their organization, defined as many modifications in staffing or care, many changes to normal operations, and/or a high volume of patients with the virus. Another 46% said the pandemic had a “medium” impact.

That created financial instability, with 59% reporting that 2020 was an unstable year for them. Common challenges across all settings included staffing issues—the greatest impact, with 54% reporting them—supply shortages and implementing safety protocols and guidelines.

Survey participants reported the most common changes resulting from COVID-19 included increased communication to keep staff updated on changes and to support their well-being, increased working-from-home activities and changed plans to deal with staffing shortages. Just over 40% said they were understaffed due to challenges in hiring.

Establishing and updating protocols such as infection prevention and emergency management plans, as well as procuring additional PPE and supplies for immediate use, were the most common COVID-19 organizational changes reported by survey participants.

“The Joint Commission will use the findings to further support our accredited health care organizations, especially as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise across the nation,” says Mark Pelletier, RN, MS, chief operating officer and chief nursing executive, The Joint Commission. “The findings will help guide the resources we develop and share with our accredited organizations. We also hope they will be a useful tool as organizations continue to face many challenges and identify solutions to help provide safe and quality care to patients during the pandemic.”