The leader of post-acute services of a major hospital system in the Midwest was almost giddy with excitement in a recent meeting of her home healthcare peers from nearby states.
“With Medicare readmission penalties on the horizon, the rest of my system is suddenly noticing me,” she said. “We're being engaged with a level of urgency and interest I've never seen before. Now, instead of being seen as a drag on the system's bottom line, they're recognizing our potential as a major profit center.”
The willingness by hospital leaders to cast a fresh eye on home healthcare is driven by more than the threat of readmission penalties, however. They are also recognizing the need to build relationships across the continuum of care in preparation for accepting greater levels of accountability for patient and population health in their communities. Even if accountable care organizations never take flight under Medicare, most hospital system leaders agree that, at minimum, their feet will be held to the fire to do more to improve patient health, especially among patients with multiple and costly chronic conditions.