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Including some answers
Home health expert Tim Rowan recently hosted a webinar on trends and challenges in home health care and how pharmacists can become involved. After the webinar, we connected with Tim to address your top 5 questions on partnering with home health agencies.
1) I’m a pharmacist who just started working in home health, and I’ve found that many patients taking more than 10 meds each day have two or three drugs that overlap. Is this common?
This is quite common in home health care. Patients are taking drugs prescribed by the hospital, specialists, and their primary physician. Often, the nurse from the home health agency is the only one to see the patient’s complete medication list. Nurses use software programs in the home to flag drug interactions, but this doesn’t address the source of the issue.
2) How are home health agencies paid for Medicare patients?
The nurse assesses the patient during the first home visit. Medicare plugs this information into a formula. Based on the patient’s diagnosis and treatment plan, the home health agency is given a one-time, fixed payment for 60 days of care. If the patient still needs care at the end of those 60 days, the nurse can do another assessment for another 60-day treatment plan and payment.
Most home care agencies’ average length of stay is 50 – 55 days, but some patients will by repeatedly recertified.
3) What’s your best advice for a pharmacist who wants to engage with home health agencies?
Do your homework before you approach an agency. Know how the agency is reimbursed. Is it a Medicare agency? Medicaid? Paid by private insurance companies or the patients? Doing this research will help you understand the agency’s pain points and how you can position your pharmacy as a valuable partner. If medication compliance impacts the agency’s ability to market themselves to the hospitals, you can make a plug for improving patient adherence.
4) That sounds like a lot of research and time. Is it worth it?
There’s a learning curve when you expand into any new market, but the benefits of partnering with home health will outweigh the initial effort. Home health agencies are under pressure to prove their value and demonstrate impact, and they’re receiving patients “quicker and sicker.” If you can form a partnership with an agency based on driving adherence and impacting patient outcomes, you increase their competitive edge — more business for them, more business for you.
5) How do I connect with a home health agency?
Identify the home health agencies working in your area and do the research. Build a presentation around your findings, focusing on how you can solve their big problems. Then, consider your audience. Is your case more compelling to the Director of Nursing or the person handling the finances? Set up a meeting and make your case. Listen while you’re there — they may offer insight into challenges that you can help them solve.