Joanne Cunningham of the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare Speaks on COVID-19 (VIDEO)
MHE video chats with Joanne Cunningham, executive director of the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare, on the latest with COVID-19 and how healthcare workers and patients are being affected.
MHE: Can you tell us about the Partnership and who you represent?
Cunningham: The Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare is a coalition of many of the national home health companies with large footprints across the nation. They care for tens of thousands of patients and are in many, many of the 50 states. Their focus is on ensuring the highest quality home health program and pursuing policy to promote patient care, ensure program integrity, and enhance quality.
MHE: The Partnership released a report today that said America’s home healthcare workers are an untapped resource in the time of COVID-19. Can you tell us the major findings of the report?
Cunningham: It was a report that we along with the National Association for Home Care and Hospice released, and its focus was essentially the role that the home health community can play in helping to combat and mitigate the COVID-19 crisis, essentially by tapping and unleashing the home health sector to be sort of a safety valve for the hospital and institutional sector, and helping to manage more patients who can appropriately be cared for in the home.
MHE: What are the major advantages of keeping more patients in the home setting during the pandemic?
Cunningham: Well, for patients who don't need to be in hospital beds, the safest place for them to be is in their own home. And many patients who are symptomatic with COVID-19, still need clinical monitoring. They need someone to make sure that they're being cared for and that their clinical needs are being met, especially if they have any kind of underlying health condition or any kind of comorbidities or immune compromised health indicators, any of that. The best place for them to be is in the home if they don't need to be in a hospital right now. Home healthcare is a very experienced modality of healthcare delivery, in that these are clinicians whose practice area is the home so they are very used to serving the clinical needs of patients in the home. So, we think it's a perfect delivery system to help serve as a safety valve for the hospital sector.
MHE: What are the major barriers to home health workers participating more fully in the effort to care for the chronically ill right now?
Cunningham: Well, I think one of the things that's difficult is there are regulatory rules and and requirements for the Medicare Home Health Program, which is what my members focus on, and are providing care for the Medicare population. We are working closely with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, to look at the regulations that right now could be modified or waived or suspended for the time of this public health emergency to allow for more flexibility and enabling more patients to be cared for at home. I think if you do that, then what you're going to do is free up this sector to be able to work much more closely with hospitals and nursing homes and other facilities to care for patients.