The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. last March instantly altered the homecare industry. The ability to offer safe, in-person care to people with disabilities and older adults became more important and vastly more complex. Our client Accra—Minnesota’s largest homecare provider—quickly adapted to provide its caregivers and clients with revised safety protocols and personal protective equipment, while re-envisioning the future of homecare in an increasingly virtual world.
The need for quality homecare has been rising due to an aging American population that is determined to stay in their home as long as possible. And just like older adults, children and adults with disabilities can lead fuller lives at home than they can in institutional settings. With advancements in telehealth and virtual capabilities, Accra and other industry leaders are seeking opportunities to provide better health outcomes, at lower cost, for the most at-risk individuals who want to receive assistance with activities of daily living and health care in the home.
In June, Accra announced a partnership with Minnesota Community Care, a St. Paul-based clinic that provides full-service health care for all people regardless of income or insurance status, to revolutionize the way Medicaid enrollees access health care in Minnesota. Using homecare-assisted telehealth appointments and in-home care management provided by Accra, Minnesota Community Care’s physicians will have more information about the whole daily experience of their patients, and patients can get help following physicians’ orders at home.
This partnership has the potential to transform care delivery by extending health care clinics into homes and enabling in-home care management, which is crucial for the many clients of both organizations who find it difficult to visit a clinical location. Meanwhile, Accra continues to collaborate with Tunheim’s team of change management and public affairs experts to navigate the constantly evolving homecare landscape and support legislation that will enable the nonprofit organization to optimize care for underserved populations or provide higher wages for personal care assistants and direct support professionals.
To gain more insight into the future of homecare, Accra CEO and President John Dahm shared his perspective on telehealth and how he sees innovative new services changing the traditional homecare model.
How has the presence of telehealth changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Due to the need for physical distancing during the pandemic, the rules for providing and being reimbursed for telehealth visits were relaxed to enable people to visit with their primary care providers and mental health counselors remotely. Our clients who are helped in-home by PCAs and home health nurses still receive personalized care in their homes, but the types of care that can be provided in the home have greatly expanded through telehealth.
Taking down this barrier to care has been vital during the pandemic for at-risk individuals, and it is proving to be an effective way for many people to receive necessary care and care management. As we chart our course forward, we must maintain telehealth options for people who cannot easily see a physician or counselor in person.
In what ways is Accra using telehealth services, and how exactly will the partnership with MCC work?
With some people continuing to remain at home to avoid exposure to COVID-19, Accra is helping clients access the care they need from the comfort of their homes. First, Accra nurses bring technology into the home and gather appropriate clinical data. They then connect the client with Minnesota Community Care physicians and clinical care providers, who assess the client’s health and address any of their health care needs. Since the Accra nurses are present for the virtual visit, they can take notes and help clients follow their medical plans.
Connecting nurses, physicians and clients all at once virtually produces a high-quality clinical visit in the home and reduces the challenges of stand-alone telehealth visits. Additionally, doctors and in-home caregivers can more quickly identify other factors that impact overall health, such as adequate nutrition, drug adherence or isolation. Together they can call on community partners, like food shelves, to remove barriers to their resources and supports.
As the healthcare system continues to evolve, how do you see telehealth fitting into Accra's capabilities in the future?
Accra’s vision is to build the ecosystem that delivers personalized care in the home to better meet the needs of those served by the current health care system. Our goal is to integrate homecare with other health care disciplines, serving as the eyes and ears of the clinic in the home by using telehealth, care coordination and other services to improve patient outcomes.
As we continue to develop partnerships with local physicians and clinics, Accra plans to expand homecare services so that Accra nurses can take vital measurements for the physician and draw blood for follow-up labs, effectively bringing the clinic and care into clients’ homes. This new innovative model will allow Medicaid beneficiaries to simply access an even wider range of services, such as mental health and pharmacy supports, through telehealth appointments and phone calls.
Accra is committed to ensuring that these efforts address health disparities between Minnesota’s diverse populations and working toward removing the many cultural, social and physical barriers to care, so all Accra clients receive the best quality of care, even if they cannot connect with a medical professional in person.