Slowing Down to Speed Up: 5 Things We Learned in 2020
It feels cliché to say 2020 was a unique year, but there’s really no way around it. By the end of February, the challenges created by the evolving pandemic required us to scrap our annual outlook entirely. We knew despite all the uncertainty, however, that innovative care delivery would be at the forefront of whatever was ahead and that our health system partners and patients would need us more than ever. Through our efforts to answer the call all healthcare providers faced during this difficult time, we learned a lot about ourselves and our role in evolving care delivery. Here are just five of those lessons:
The Importance of Remaining Nimble.
Perhaps the top operational takeaway from 2020 is the need for agility. The power of flexibility proved itself in a number of ways. When coronavirus fears kept patients from entering our nation’s emergency departments, which traditionally is the most important access point for our intake process, we knew we needed to find a solution to not only maintain patient volume, but also increase our partners’ capacity for treating COVID-19 patients. Our ability to make decisions quickly allowed us to collaborate with our partners in new ways. This included moving patients who had already started treatment inside the hospital back home with continued hospital-level care. Eventually, we were able to provide this level of home-based care to COVID-19 patients, too.
Flexibility is necessary as federal policies and regulations evolved to help make innovative care models like ours more accessible. Throughout the year, step-by-step, CMS made it easier for providers to offer (and get paid for) home hospital care. Along the way, we’ve worked with officials to set new policies and change our model to evolve with the shifting legislative and public health landscapes.
The Value of TeleHealth and Remote Patient Monitoring.
Contessa’s care model is built on a virtual foundation. Home hospital care relies on remote patient monitoring devices to track biometrics and vitals and incorporate tablets for telehealth visits. 2020 proved that this technology is not only here to stay, but vital when the world is isolating.
During the pandemic, we’ve seen a drastic increase in technology adoption. Quarantine has forced healthcare into the virtual setting, and many physicians and patients who were once resistant are now embracing digital integration. This utilization ramp-up may be one of the biggest transformations driven by the pandemic and will forever alter the delivery of care.
The Support Our Industry Will Need to Return to “Normal.”
Aside from the tremendous physical and mental toll our caregivers are experiencing from the pandemic, providers have also seen drastic drops in volumes across the board, particularly for preventive care. These drops translate to a loss in revenue which, for many providers, means the elimination of positions and services. The sticking point is that these important patient services are going to be needed again, and providers will soon need to figure out how to restaff or restructure to create access. The good news is that home hospital care models, like Contessa, make visits to the hospital less daunting. It is far more fathomable to visit the hospital knowing you’ll be sent back home to recover, rather than be admitted and create the risk of an adverse event.
Meanwhile, the payer community is eager to lend its support. With value being the nucleus of our care model, payers are now in a unique position to support providers as work begins to reestablish a workforce and rebuild patient volumes in a new way. It’s going to take innovation, courage and teamwork to pull off.
The Benefits of Scalable Alternative Site Models.
The true value and impact of Contessa’s home hospital care model have shined brightly this year. Our proven outcomes alleviated many acute care provider concerns and many patients now prefer their home as the site of hospital-level care. Contessa has an average opt-in rate in excess of 80 percent, proving that eligible patients, when given the option, will choose to receive hospital care at home. Patients often feel safer in the home, especially with the threat of COVID-19 in the hospital walls, and providers know the difficulties that often accompany patients who are stressed or unsure of their surroundings.
Outside of the direct response to the pandemic, we’ve also seen how our model’s scalability has been effective through new or growing partnerships with programs such as the ones at the Marshfield Clinic Health System and Mount Sinai Health System. Contessa’s program evolved out of necessity and then spread proactively to areas that would soon need it. We now know what it takes to expand our offerings, almost literally overnight, and help other partners quickly reap the benefits.
The True Meaning of Resiliency.
As 2020 comes to a close, and our world finds solutions to the pandemic, caregivers and the foundation on which our care models were built have proven more than resilient. Like many organizations, Contessa’s 2020 plans had to be put on hold or shift for the greater good of our country’s health. Our team’s ability to pivot and stay strong in the face of adversity is a testament to their resilience.
While our year may have turned out quite differently than planned, we worked as one to overcome the challenge of a lifetime. As we move forward, the lessons we’ve learned this year will guide us and help us grow to better meet the needs of our future. When faced with uncertainty, I’m proud of the poise our organization kept while learning how to best support our partners in delivering care.
Author’s note: In any retrospective of this year, I would be remiss to not pay tribute to those we have lost. My thoughts remain with the friends and loved ones of all who have lost their lives to the COVID-19 virus. It is an honor to support those who selflessly put their lives on the line as frontline healthcare workers, first responders and essential workers.