As the novel coronavirus pandemic continues disrupting the business of hospice, many providers anticipate a decrease in annual revenues for 2020, according to recent research by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC). Among the contributing factors to revenue drops is a decline in hospice patient admissions and referrals amid the public health emergency.
As the NAHC research found, 60% of the hospices surveyed anticipated a decrease in annual revenues due to the pandemic’s pitfalls, “with just under 30% expecting a decrease of 15% or more” during calendar year 2020. Majority of the providers cited increased costs of supplying staff with personal protective equipment (PPE) as a driving force, with hospices calling for more federal funding of PPE supplies among increased costs and high demand.
“The data supplied by hospice organizations is invaluable and paints a much clearer picture of the many challenges that hospices across the nation are working to overcome during the public health emergency,” said NAHC President Bill Dombi in response to the findings. “This information will be crucial as we continue to work with Congress and the Administration to craft solutions that support the continuing provision of vital hospice care to vulnerable patients and their loved ones despite the complexities that COVID-19 present.”
Closely following PPE costs, reductions in patient referrals and admissions also topped the list of contributing factors. More than half of the hospices surveyed saw a decrease in patient admissions in comparison to last March, with more than a quarter seeing a 15% drop or more. Despite a rise in confirmed COVID-19 positive patients coming on to service, nearly 71% of these hospices reported declining referrals and admissions from nursing facilities, along with 63% experiencing declines in hospital referrals and roughly half seeing a decrease from community referral partners.
Hospice referral relationships have been impacted by the pandemic, which remain as critical to business sustainability and development as prior to the pandemic. Social distancing measures to reduce risk of exposure have limited hospice staff access to patients in nursing homes, hospitals and home settings, which has also led to reduced direct interaction with these referral partners.
The pandemic has additionally brought on a number of operational and financial obstacles that are causing damage to hospice bottom lines, such as reduced fundraising revenues. Nearly 44% of hospices have experienced a decline in fundraising dollars that could have offset costs, according to NAHC.
To help provide temporary relief, nearly half of hospices told NAHC that they were acquiring assistance from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and other loans to relieve the pandemic’s financial pressures. While growth in the hospice sector has been slowed by COVID-19, hospice providers anticipate improvement as states begin to reopen and access to patients in some settings starts to increase, such as those who reside in nursing homes.