Hospices Could Gain from Skilled Nursing Decline During Pandemic

Though hospice providers have taken their hits from COVID-19, one possible side effect is a possible surge in patients seeking services in the home rather than institutional care due to fears of possible infection.

This according to Amedisys (NASDAQ: AMED) CEO Paul Kusserow, speaking at the BMO Capital Markets’ 2020 Prescription for Success Healthcare Virtual Conference.

Nursing homes in particular have been ravaged during the pandemic. More than 107,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases to date have occurred among residents of skilled nursing facilities, in addition to more than 71,000 suspected cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). These infections have led to nearly 30,000 deaths. The total number of coronavirus deaths in the United States currently exceeds 123,000. 

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The prevalence of these outbreaks in nursing facilities could accelerate growth for organizations that offer hospice care in the home. 

“We like working with [skilled nursing facilities (SNFs)]. Particularly in hospice, we work with SNFs,” Kusserow said. “It’s important to us that somewhat these SNFs are able to continue, but we also compete against them, and we believe that a lot of our gains today are actually coming from SNFs.” 

Nursing homes have seen an estimated 10% drop in census due to the pandemic, Hospice News’ sister site Skilled Nursing News reported. Factors such as the number of COVID-related deaths, fatalities from other causes, admission bans and suspension of non-essential surgeries contributed to the decline.

Most hospice patients receive care in their homes, with nursing facilities coming in second. In 2017, 56% of routine home care days took place in a private residence, compared to 42.7% in a nursing facility, according to the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).

As the pandemic proceeds with no end in shift towards choosing to receive care in the home could make life easier for hospices, many of which have struggled to gain access to patients in nursing homes due to restrictions as to who can enter those facilities.

“We think now that business is going to shift into the home … the referral patterns I think are going to be pretty well established,” said Kusserow. “Even if everybody this time next year is on a vaccine, I think the idea of wanting to be home, to be safer to be away from places of infection. I think it’s gonna be a long haul back to the past for SNFs.”

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