Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021
on December 01, 2020
Clint Geffert, President, VGM & Associates
I think we can all agree, 2020 has been an “unusual” year in a myriad of ways, many of which we want to put behind us. What can we expect in 2021? Much of the same? Back to normalcy?
The one thing 2020 proved was the importance of care – quality care in the home. At no other time in modern history has the HME industry shown its value, resilience, and ability to adapt and change. Across the health care industry, stakeholders rapidly and drastically began to adopt technology, refine workflows, and encourage new behaviors.
The reality is COVID-19 is here for the foreseeable future. Even with the release of a vaccine, we are still 10-12 months away from mass inoculation and a new norm. As uncertainty abounds, healthcare leaders need to look for key indicators and a comprehensive view that can best anticipate the future environment and guide intelligent action.
A few areas of predictions I see going into 2021:
One of the biggest changes seen in post-acute care since March is the embracing of telehealth through relaxed guidelines by CMS. Telehealth has been accelerated in HME through enabling patient contact through video or phone, virtual set-ups, and remote patient monitoring. I personally do not want to see CMS put telehealth on the sidelines, nor do I want to see it go away. Telehealth can play a huge role in patient care and offer rural communities cost effective access.
Opportunity in Sleep, Supplies, and Other Chronic Conditions
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated trends that some providers were already pursuing. This includes more at-home sleep testing and other chronic conditions that can be cared for in the home and have a resupply component, such as sleep apnea, COPD, and diabetes. With several chronic conditions, taking a more wholistic approach to care, i.e. home sleep testing, remote setup of pap machines, etc. is beneficial for patients and providers and drives new behaviors and cost savings.
Digitization and Technology
Digitization of your business should be a priority. Offering remote services, increasing digital offerings, utilizing data to target referral sources, more connected care and monitoring, as well as the ability for your employees to work from home are all vital. We all must accept, embrace, create, and expand our use of technology. We should be seeking efficiencies with technology instead of human capital, mind you, human capital is vital in a number of roles, but technology advances should be sought prior to throwing more people at the problem. This means the cost structure must change from human intervention to technology solutions because technology solutions are not cheap.
Value of Home…and Local Service
There are certain hot spots in the country where large hospital systems would have failed if not for the HME community. The HOME part of HME means something now more than ever, and the role the industry plays is more important than ever before. We’ve proven that over the last eight months. However, supply chain independence, nimbleness, and local service mattered. HME providers are part of a vital equation that informs others when to intervene because they are the ones monitoring patients in their homes, and the ones connecting with patients as true partners in care for perhaps even multiple chronic conditions. This is more than selling a product or shipping a box. During this pandemic, patients have proven that they are still yearning for connections and service, so providers need to continue to enable remote care in the home.