New technology and a pandemic dread of hospitals have spawned startups delivering at-home hospital care. Venture capitalists and health insurers are backing the efforts
Home hospital care continues to gain momentum after scientific evidence continues to support its efficacy and recent regulatory flexibilities have made such care more accessible to Medicare beneficiaries. As a result, many throughout the Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia region continue to take advantage of at-home clinical care. Contact Sena Health today to find out more about receiving customer-centric, hospital-level care in the comfort of your home!
Investors are financing a drive to shift hospital services into patients’ homes, banking on a future in which a growing amount of care occurs outside medical centers.
Startups providing technology and know-how to bring medical services into the home are raising funds from venture capitalists as well as health insurers and providers. The fledgling companies include DispatchHealth Holdings Inc., whose investors include insurer Humana Inc. ; Medically Home Group Inc., which is backed by the Mayo Clinic and other investors; and Contessa Health Inc., whose funders include the Blue Venture Fund, an investment arm for BlueCross BlueShield groups.
Though not a new idea, hospital-at-home care is only beginning to gain attention, thanks in part to new technology for delivering care remotely, but also to many patients’ reluctance to visit hospitals during the pandemic, some investors and executives said.
Medical centers remain best suited for surgery and other complex care, but hospitals are finding that some people with common illnesses such as heart failure and urinary-tract infections can be effectively managed at home, where patients are more comfortable.
“Hospitals provide amazing care. However, it can be a traumatic experience for a patient,” said Contessa Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Travis Messina. “Having the ability to be around your family members at home can lead to great outcomes.”
Hospital-at-home care isn’t widespread yet, partly because reimbursement has been limited. But the business case for these companies will grow as more commercial insurers cover these services, said Arielle Trzcinski, a principal analyst with Forrester Research Inc.
One recent catalyst was a randomized controlled trial of hospital-level care at home for acutely ill adults, published last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, which provided more evidence the approach can work. Home hospitalization reduced costs, healthcare use and readmissions, while increasing physical activity compared with typical hospital care, the study said.
Another boost came in November, when hospital-at-home care became more accessible to Medicare beneficiaries through a new program enabling hospitals to be reimbursed for home care they provide to these patients during the public-health emergency. That program now includes 48 health systems and 109 hospitals in 29 states, said a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Nashville, Tenn.-based Contessa forms and manages joint ventures with health systems to help them identify emergency-room patients who could safely receive home-hospital services, Mr. Messina said.
Patients who qualify medically, and have safe homes, can choose to go home with a kit containing items needed for remote care, such as a tablet and blood-pressure cuff. A hospital physician visits each patient virtually while a nurse is physically in the home to help with the care, Mr. Messina said.
Patients often fare better in their homes because they aren’t exposed to hospital germs and are in a familiar environment where they sleep more soundly and have the support of family, he said.
The Mayo Clinic initially faced skepticism from some of its physicians when it joined last year with Boston-based Medically Home to provide hospital-at-home services to patients in Jacksonville, Fla., and Eau Claire, Wis., said Michael Maniaci, chairman of the division of hospital internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Florida.
But the resistance dissipated after a six-month pilot showed that patients usually opted for home-hospital care when it was offered to them, that they were highly satisfied with the home services they received, and that readmissions were lower compared with what would be expected with conventional hospital care, Dr. Maniaci said. About 150 patients between the two locations have received this care, he said.
Mayo now plans to expand home-hospital services to more locations, Dr. Maniaci said, adding, “This is something that will help our patients. I think it’s the wave of the future.”
Humana, which has been involved with care in the home for Medicare beneficiaries since the mid-2000s, seeks to extend home medical services to many more people through recent agreements with companies like DispatchHealth, according Susan Diamond, segment president of Humana’s home business.
“The people we serve tell us they want more care in the home,” Ms. Diamond said. “The demand for this is rising, especially over the past year during the pandemic.”
By the end of June 2020, an estimated 41% of U.S. adults had delayed or avoided medical care because of concerns about Covid-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in September. Striking deals to provide care at home is one way hospitals can serve more patients while reducing their need to be present at physical locations, some observers said.
“The health systems and payers that have started to partner with companies like DispatchHealth, focused on high complexity in-home care, are going to be in a really good position as the future starts to evolve,” said Dr. Pete Hudson, a managing director at Alta Partners, one of DispatchHealth’s investors.
Denver-based DispatchHealth has created a platform to bring medical care into the home, including care coordination and connecting medical professionals with patients.
The company has maintained steady growth throughout the pandemic, Co-founder and CEO Mark Prather said, adding that the crisis has made more patients realize that they can receive healthcare outside medical centers.
“What Covid did is it brought awareness to the possibility of medical care at home,” Dr. Prather said.