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Aging in Place: the movement to provide care in the home

Aging in Place: The movement to provide care in the home

End-of-life living situations make up a topic many people want to avoid. We don't like thinking about a time when we might not be able to care for ourselves and our loved ones.

However, this subject cannot and should not be avoided. By taking steps to adjust our surroundings today, we can better position ourselves for a better quality of life as we age. This concept, called aging in place, should be a part of anyone's post-retirement plans.

What is aging in place?

According to the National Institute on Aging, the concept of aging in place refers to a scenario in which a person lives in the residence of his or her choice with access to needed health services for as long as possible.

Importantly, aging in place isn't just a consideration for the elderly. In fact, anyone nearing retirement age should consider the challenges that might arise in the future. NIA noted one of the first steps for many people is to assess current health issues and determine if these conditions will make it difficult to live independently later in life.

Taking steps to prepare for the future is the driving force behind the aging in place movement. Modifying one's home to be more accessible or utilizing a third party to take care of household chores are two examples of how to prepare.

As a concept, aging in place is meant to help seniors maintain the best possible quality of life throughout the aging process.

By taking action now, people nearing retirement age can prevent future risk of injury. By taking action now, people nearing retirement age can prevent future risk of injury.

How can patients prepare to age in place?

A few simple changes around the home can make it much easier for seniors to live independently for longer. Here are a few recommendations from NIA:

  • Handrails: Installing a ramp with handrails at the entrance of the home makes the building accessible to wheelchair users. In the bathroom, installing bars near the toilet and shower will reduce the likelihood of falls.
  • Slipping hazards: Wood and tile surfaces can become wet and slippery. Installing friction strips or mats will help prevent dangerous slips.
  • Light switches: Placing light switches at the bottom and top of staircases will make maneuvering between floors much safer.
  • Handles: Rounded handles can be difficult to grip. Replacing door and faucet handles with more comfortable solutions will eliminate this problem.
  • Area rugs: An unsecured rug presents a dangerous hazard. Removing rugs or fixing them to the floor will make the room safer.

Today's seniors also have access to technologies that can make independent living much easier. For instance, a hearing aid that connects to the doorbell or fire alarm system can wake up seniors with hearing loss. Likewise, safety alert buttons can call for help when a senior is unable to reach the telephone.

Many modern consumer products can also make things easier for seniors. For instance, a smart thermostat can regulate the home's temperature throughout the day without needing input from the user. People nearing retirement age should consider how they can upgrade their homes with accessibility-enhancing technology.

How do home health and hospice care relate to aging in place?

Patients with chronic illness can remain independent for longer with the assistance of a home health aide. Near end-of-life, a home health or hospice worker can ensure that patients have the best possible quality of life at home.

Home health care workers and hospice services can also help the patient's family members to better understand how they can help their loved one live out his or her final days in peace and comfort.

To learn more about how award-winning NDoc software can support your home health and hospice teams, schedule a free demo today.

Provider Payments Held Due to Untimely Cost Reports

Provider payments held due to untimely cost reports

To ensure that all records of care costs are kept up to date and accurate, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires that providers submit cost reports in a timely manner. Providers that do not submit cost reports on time, for whatever reason, could lose out on a significant amount of money. Even a slight error could result in a 30-day payment delay.

Providers need to have a thorough understanding of how to file a cost report.

Why some care providers are experiencing payment holds

In June, claims and transaction processing provider Palmetto GBA reported that a high number of care providers had submitted untimely or incomplete cost reports. As a result, those providers faced payment holds until their reporting information could be completed.

According to Palmetto GBA, the majority of payment withholds were the result of providers submitting cost reports through eServices, but failing to mail in the signed cost report worksheet. The company warned providers that it could take up to 30 days to process the amended forms. Such withholds could could prevent providers from receiving the reimbursements they're owed for an even longer period if they do not immediately complete their forms.

doctor typing Late cost report submission could result in a payment hold.

How to properly file a cost report

Care providers should file cost reports as early as possible. Doing so will ensure payments are received quickly or, in the event there's an error, it may be amended swiftly. In fact, Palmetto reported that CMS will give providers a grace period to correct errors, based on the number of days the provider filed early.

Submitting cost reports electronically is the most efficient way to do so. Not only is traditional mail less secure, it's also slower. If your mailed reports do not arrive on time, it is your responsibility to track them down and make sure they get to the right place. Furthermore, electronic submissions eliminate the cost of postage and you get a confirmation of receipt as soon as you submit the reports.

Note that if you send files electronically, there's no need to send a separate disc through the mail. In fact, doing so could could further issues. However, Palmetto GBA explained that cost reports filed as low or no utilization must be sent as a hard copy. Plus, a hard copy of the signature page is always required.

When your organization leverages integrated software to track patient and administrative data, you gain the power of interoperability. When all of your data can easily transfer between systems, there's less work to bog down your admin team. In other words, administrators can ensure the information contained with cost reports is accurate, so that fewer claims will be denied. To gain this benefit, your organization needs an electronic health record application it can trust.

As the industry shifts toward value-based care, these reports will become ever more important to your organization's bottom line. The more you can trust your data, the better you can demonstrate to payers the value of your work.

With award-winning NDoc Software, generating cost reports is intuitive. NDoc is designed specifically for hospice and home health care providers. To learn more about how our solutions can benefit your practice, sign up for a free demo today.

What home health agencies need to know about OASIS-D changes

What home health agencies need to know about OASIS-D changes

Last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced proposed changes to the Outcome and Assessment Information Set (OASIS). Though the official interpretive guidance manual won't be finalized until November, the changes are scheduled to go into effect in January 2019.

Home health agencies must plan for these changes in advance, or risk financial penalty. Here's what every HHA should know about the proposed changes:

Proposed changes could impact reimbursements

According to CMS, the overhaul to OASIS-D would affect 33 items, resulting in the collection of 235 fewer data elements within a home health episode. The proposal may also new items to support interoperability for the IMPACT ACT. Once these changes go into effect, agencies will need to ensure that staff enter data correctly or risk missing out on reimbursements.

Failure to fill out a field – or filling it out incorrectly – could result in a denial from CMS. HHA stakeholders should consider updating their policies and practices to ensure no mistakes are made when filling out OASIS forms. Policies may include provisions for training staff members on how best to collect information relevant to OASIS-D data elements. Incomplete or inaccurate assessments could leave money on the table. HHA's can protect their financial health by preparing for these changes well in advance.

Staff may require additional training

Any time changes are made to OASIS, HHA staff members need to be trained on the new measures. This year's proposed changes are extensive, but even a small adjustment would require additional training hours to ensure full compliance.

NDoc software includes a training module to help staff members become familiar with the new fields. Because the module is built into the existing platform, staff members should have little trouble accessing and engaging with the training session. Plus, individuals can review the materials at their convenience.

Because CMS won't implement the new rules until November, it doesn't leave much time for training. HHAs that already work with NDoc software will have the advantage of possessing a pre-existing solution so they can get up and on track as soon as possible.

A nurse bandaging a patient's  leg. Home health care providers will need additional training.

Compliance is a big concern

As with any new regulatory change, compliance should be top of mind for all HHA stakeholders. Not only could noncompliance put your organization at financial risk, but it could also place the company in legal peril. Again, NDoc software can help stakeholders understand what it takes to be compliant and work toward that goal.

NDoc doesn't rely on static fields, but actually uses a logic-based system for comprehensive results.

As an added failsafe, NDoc not only contains compliance alerts that ask care providers to fill in certain fields, but also performs internal checks to ensure providers actually filled them in.

Interoperability will become easier

One of the major goals of the OASIS-D overhaul is to make the interoperability of data easier than ever. Essentially, the new system will pave the way for standardization among all providers, not only those within the acute care field.

For example, if a patient gets his or her hip replaced and is discharged into rehab facility and then to a home health agency, his or her data will seamlessly transfer between electronic record keeping systems. This allows for easier patient movement throughout the continuum of care.

Award winning NDoc software can help your organization stay compliant and improve operations. HHAs should consider investing in a comprehensive solution before the Jan. 1 deadline. To learn more, schedule a free demo today.

Why caring for caregivers is important

Why caring for caregivers is important

Who cares for the caregivers? Taking responsibility for a family member in need can be a full-time job. Many adults in the U.S. informally take care of an ill spouse, disabled child or aging family member. These caregivers often miss out on self-care opportunities and may experience their own negative health consequences as a result.

Caregivers should take steps to make time for self care and they should not be afraid to ask for help when they need it.

How daily responsibilities impact caregiver well-being

Caregivers face a number of challenges every day, outside of their caregiving responsibilities. Essential tasks such as grocery shopping and house cleaning can fall by the wayside as other important responsibilities take up additional time and energy. Over the long term, these stressors can add up, to the detriment of the caregiver's mental and physical well-being.

In fact, research from the University of Pittsburgh found that caregiving spouses between the ages of 66 and 96 have a 63 percent higher mortality risk than non-caregivers within the same age bracket.

Furthermore, the Family Caregiver Alliance reports that, regardless of age or sex, caregivers often experience sleep deprivation, lack of exercise, poor dietary habits and postponement of their own medical appointments. Emotions can run high, causing further stress on the caregiver's body, negatively impacting the individual's health.

These issues are not limited to a small group of people. According to the Mayo Clinic, roughly 1 in 3 adults provide care as an informal caregiver. Many of these individuals do not classify themselves as caregivers, and therefore miss out on opportunities for support.

Caring for an aging family member can be a full time job. Caring for an aging family member can be a full time job.

Why self care for caregivers is important

One reason caregivers may fail to take responsibility for their own personal care is because they feel selfish for doing so. Often, thinking about one's own problems leads to even deeper fears, such as what will happen if one is no longer able to care for a family member. These fears are legitimate, but caregivers should address them, lest they risk damaging their own well-being.

According to the National Cancer Institute, caregivers experience a range of conflicting emotions, including anger, grief, guilt and loneliness. For many caregivers, the first step to dealing with these negative emotions is to understand that it is completely normal to feel them. Every caregiver experiences these emotions on occasion and it can help to explore them with the help of a counselor, therapist or trusted family member.

When caregivers feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities, they should know it's all right to ask for help. In fact, the American Society on Aging provides a comprehensive list of organizations that provide care for caregivers.

What friends and family can do to help out

Caregivers should feel comfortable asking friends and family for help. Not everyone will be able to provide help. However, there's a good chance that these individuals want to offer assistance, but don't know how. Asking for specific assistance is a good way for caregivers to receive the help they need.

For instance, caregivers can request friends and family to assist with simple tasks around the home, such as cooking, cleaning, yard work or shopping. Family members can also make phone calls and find information the caregiver needs to provide for their loved one. These small activities can add up, freeing the caregiver to take care of their own needs so they can feel energized, rested and ready to provide care.

To learn more about how to support caregivers, visit our resource center.

Hospice: Tracking family and caregiver goals

Hospice: Tracking family and caregiver goals

A terminal diagnosis does not have to put an end to a patient's plans. In fact, a comprehensive approach to hospice care makes it a priority to help patients achieve practical tasks and goals during end of life.

Noting, tracking and monitoring these goals within a hospice management solution helps caregivers and patients alike to follow through on those goals which are still practical and possible.

Addressing patient goals

Hospice patients nearing end of life have a number of practical goals that they would like to achieve in the time remaining to them. As noted by the National Institute on Aging, four factors influence a patient's comfort at the end of life: physical comfort, mental and emotional needs, spiritual issues and practical tasks.

A comprehensive approach to hospice care addresses each of these areas of concern in a holistic manner because each is intertwined with the others. For instance, a hospice patient who is able to complete important practical tasks may feel better emotionally as a result.

Consider this scenario: A hospice patient worries what will become of her pet cat when she is no longer able to provide for the animal. Therefore, the patient wants to ensure there is a plan in place for her beloved pet. Caregivers and family members can work with the patient to provide for the animal in the future, thus putting the family member's mind at ease.

Hospice patients may also have goals concerning events in which they want to participate. Examples could include seeing a grandchild's dance recital or visiting with a old friend. These goals may require special assistance or coordination among caregivers. Having a systematic method of tracking goal progress can make it easier to accomplish these important end-of-life goals.

A goal tracking solution helps patients achieve realistic goals during end of life. A goal tracking solution helps patients achieve realistic goals during end of life.

Setting family and caregiver goals

Family members and caregivers may also have their own goals regarding their loved one's end-of-life plans. In addition to wanting to spend more time with their family member, caregivers may feel the stress of their responsibilities becoming overwhelming. As noted by the Mayo Clinic, caregiver roles shift over time, which can increase stress levels.

It's important to develop related goals that allow caregivers to accomplish their own ambitions. However, caregivers may hesitate to put their own needs first. The National Cancer Association suggested that caregivers learn to recognize when they're feeling overwhelmed and have resources prepared for when they need an extra hand.

Again, a systematic approach to goal setting and tracking will not only help everyone stay on the same page regarding patient care, but also ensure caregivers stay on track with their personal objectives.

Tracking goals to create new opportunities

A robust hospice management solution allows providers, caregivers and patients to establish goals, track progress and measure success. Because patient mobility changes over the course of hospice care, goals may need to be modified over time. A tracking solution makes sure everyone is always up to date with patient and caregiver goals so that all parties can work together to bring about a desired outcome.

When this functionality is built into the broader EHR platform, it's easier for providers and caregivers to align patient goals with their current treatment plans. As with other important activities, interoperability is key. Connecting solutions into a holistic system ensures nothing slips through the cracks.

To learn more about patient goal tracking and discover the other beneficial features of our award-winning hospice management solution, schedule a conversation with one of our expert consultants today.

Why hospice benefits are underutilized in the U.S.

Why Medicare hospice benefits are underutilized

Recent data shows that many Americans who are entitled to receive hospice services through Medicare are either unaware of the availability of benefits or are unwilling to take advantage of them. Only by spreading awareness of the availability of these essential services will hospice groups be able to raise participation rates.

What the statistics show

The recent Facts & Figures report from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization shows that the majority of Medicare beneficiaries do not fully benefit from available hospice resources. In fact, 40.5 percent of patients who access hospice services through Medicare receive 14 days or less of care.

Such a short span of time is insufficient to maximize these services. NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach noted that patient and family outreach needs to improve to spread awareness of all benefits available to those facing end of life.

"The hospice interdisciplinary team is ideally suited to provide care and support to patients and family caregivers throughout the last months of life, not just the last days," Banach said.

Overall, hospice participation among Medicare patients could be improved. According to the report, 48 percent of Medicare decedents were enrolled in hospice at time of death in 2016. Further, of the 4,382 Medicare-certified hospice centers operating in the U.S., the majority had an average daily census of fewer than 50 patients.

Improving hospice participation among Medicare beneficiaries depends on a two-pronged approach: 1) Understanding patient and family motivations for declining hospices services, and 2) disseminating accurate information concerning the availability and types of services.

Patients may not be aware of the services available to them. Patients may not be aware of the services available to them.

Why families hesitate to use benefits

Patients and families often view enrollment in hospice services as the end of the road, only to be utilized when a family member is very close to end of life. They may fail to understand that these benefits are not only available on a short-term basis.

One reason for this misunderstanding may lie in the initial rollout of the Medicare hospice benefit. When these services first became available to Medicare patients in 1983, the majority of participants had terminal cancer.

Today, a larger percentage of hospice patients have cardiovascular diseases and dementia. Speaking with HealthLine, NHPCO vice president and COO John Mastrojohn explained that physicians may hesitate to refer dementia patients to a palliative care organization.

"It is well documented that the prognostication for those patients with a noncancer diagnosis is more difficult and is a complicating factor for physicians and others who refer patients to hospice care," said Mastrojohn.

Another reason individuals may refuse hospice care is a worry about expense. Patients and their families may not know the extent of services which are fully covered by the program. Therefore, spreading awareness of the availability of hospice benefits should be a priority among hospice organizational leaders.

How to encourage hospice participation

Hospice agencies can play a role in increasing the utilization of their services by becoming a source of knowledge for patients and their families. End of life is an incredibly stressful time, and even patients who research their options may not fully understand the exact benefits available to them.

Hospice leaders should consider developing a strategy for reaching out to local Medicare beneficiaries to explain, in plain language, the services patients are entitled to.

To learn more about patient outreach and discover the best-in-class features of our award-winning hospice management solution, schedule a conversation with one of our expert consultants today.

Change is in the air - is your agency ready?

M&A activity, trust and the hospice market

Mergers and acquisitions in the home health care sector have seen an increase in activity in recent years, and that's got a lot of agencies and staff members worried.The hospice sector is also seeing a spike in M&A activity, particularly as more health care providers – in and outside of acute care – consider expanding their services to include palliative care

With providers giving hospice a more central role, there are likely to be some big changes for acute care organizations in the near future. Amid the turbulence it's critical that agencies have EHR software they can depend on to help them continue providing care and receiving payment. 

Hospice M&A activity on the rise 
Interest in the hospice sector is rising, with many companies, such as Amedisys Inc., expanding their focus on this area of care, Home Health Care News reported. 

"I don't know of any [provider] looking to remain exclusively as a home health provider," said Mark Kulik, managing director of advisory firm The Braff Group, in an interview with the news source. "If you're a provider of Medicare-certified services, traditional episodic home care, I can't think of anybody of size that's not trying to also provide hospice services, as well."

Costs are driving part of this growing focus on hospice, which is often less expensive than other care delivery methods, and CMS reimbursement has generally been more favorable and steadier for hospice care, as Home Health Care News noted. 

hospice More providers are focusing on hospice care.

Expanding palliative care 
There are other factors at play, too, that have pushed many providers to look more closely at hospice. CMS has restricted what can be considered outside of the hospice benefit while at the same time increasing compliance standards, squeezing agencies and in effect forcing them to do more with less. As a result, many providers are introducing palliative care programs that enable them to provide a more comprehensive continuum of care, letting them capture patients who aren't hospice-appropriate and effectively care for those who are. 

Trust amid change 
Reorganization within health care to place more focus on hospice can present challenges for acute care agencies. Mergers and acquisitions, while growth opportunities, can create internal turbulence. Staff members can become unhappy because they are forced to adopt a difficult-to-use EHR or follow confusing new workflows. The change can create gaps in administrative support, with calls going unanswered and follow-up care and appointments failing to be scheduled. The agency can face hefty costs to re-establish partnerships with hospitals, labs and other providers. And the new EHR vendor may not provide the transparency needed to help the transition go smoothly and ensure that patient care is not disrupted in the interim. 

"Weather the tides of change with confidence and minimal disruption to care."

That's where trust comes in. Acute care agencies need to have the dependable support from a trusted EHR vendor that can help them weather the tides of change with confidence and minimal disruption to care. 

Thornberry's NDoc® solution has been named Best in KLAS in the homecare segment for a record-breaking five years in a row. NDoc® is a logic-based EHR that is designed to anticipate and accommodate change, avoid downtime during transitions and ease burdens on staff. NDoc® is also fully optimized for hospice care, and can help your agency expand its current services or implement a new palliative care program. And NDoc® is backed by Thornberry's dedicated customer support team, which is ready to help you whenever you need. 

As acute care priorities evolve, achieve the trusting partnership you need by choosing the Thornberry team and its award-winning NDoc® solution. 

These six tips can help you attract top talent.

6 hiring tips for home health care

Delivering high-quality home health care depends on who's on your team. It's impossible to deliver high-quality care without the right people on board across all departments of your home health agency, from clinical to administration support. 

But the quality of your hires depends on your recruitment strategy. Make the best hires for your HHA with these six tips:

1. Create a great candidate experience
"Candidate experience" is one of the buzziest phrases of the year, and for good reason: Creating a seamless, stress-free application process makes a positive impression on candidates and is more likely to lead top talent to accept an offer at your agency. A bad candidate experience generates bad press, too, with 72 percent of job applicants sharing their negative experience on review sites such as Glassoor, according to a study by Future Workplace. 

Here are the hallmarks of a great candidate experience – let them guide your recruitment strategy:

  • Timeliness: Recruitment can be time-intensive, but if candidates are left waiting to hear from you they may be picked up by another agency. Keep the process moving. 
  • Communication: Regularly update candidates on their status and stay in regular communication with them throughout the recruitment process. 
  • Simplicity: If people have to jump through hoops to apply for a job at your organization, they're going to look elsewhere. Streamlined, intuitive application processes are best. 

2. Reach right-fit applicants 
Another key to making great hires in home health is effectively reaching right-fit candidates. Advertise postings on social media sites such as LinkedIn and health care job boards. Work with a recruiter who specializes in the home health field and ensure they're fully briefed on the scope and demands of the job. 

Make sure people can apply for jobs at your agency on their smartphones, too, as 78 percent of millennials and 73 percent of Generation Xers used mobile devices to search for jobs in 2016, according to findings from the Pew Research Center. 

application Creating a great candidate experience helps you keep top talent interested.

3. Offer competitive salary and flexible benefits 
To attract the most qualified clinicians and administrative support staff, you need to offer competitive salary and benefits packages. Ensure the standard elements are there – great health insurance and retirement savings plans, for example, but also consider offering other non-typical benefits that are growing in popularity, such as generous PTO days, student loan repayment assistance and financial advisory services. 

4. Look for soft skills 
Of course, any new hire to your HHA needs to have the right technical and medical skills for the job, but it's also important to hire for soft skills, especially in patient-facing roles. Soft skills to look for include:

  • Effective written and verbal communication.
  • Creative problem solving.
  • Collaboration and teamwork.
  • Time management.

5. Plan onboarding 
Onboarding may seem like the last thing to think about when it comes to recruitment, but it deserves front-and-center attention. A great onboarding process is part of creating a positive candidate experience, and a structured program can help new hires hit the ground running. A strong onboarding process is one that includes ample training time and familiarizes the new hire with the teams and workflows of your agency. 

6. Stay organized 
Staying organized throughout the recruitment process helps improve the experience for both employer and employee. An EMR like Thornberry's NDoc® solution can help you HHA keep things running smoothly while more resources and time are devoted to recruitment efforts. 

The success of your HHA depends on the quality of its hires. Follow the six tips above to attract top talent and keep them on board through great application experiences. 

When it comes to sepsis, prevention is the best medicine for this deadly condition.

5 things to know about sepsis

When healthcare providers are doing everything they can to help patients get back on their feet or manage chronic illnesses, infections can decimate their efforts in the blink of an eye. 

Unfortunately, at many hospitals across the country, sepsis may be doing just that. And that means big problems for home health agencies, who send and receive patients to and from hospitals and depend on low readmission rates to avoid financial penalties. 

Sepsis is characterized by a breakdown in the body's healthy immune system response to infection. It is one of the top causes of hospital deaths in the U.S., with more than 1.5 million people developing the condition each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in three patients who die in a hospital have sepsis, a sobering statistic. 

sepsis Hospitals are seeing a growing number of sepsis cases. 

In response to this growing threat, state legislatures and regulatory bodies are mandating stricter standards for infection control by healthcare providers. The most famous case of this is New York State, which now requires all healthcare agencies to adopt more detailed, evidence-based screening and treatment protocols. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services followed suit, updating its conditions of participation to make it mandatory that all HHAs operate an infection control program. 

As the discussion around sepsis intensifies, here are five things home health agencies should know about this dangerous condition:

1. Older patients are at increased risk of developing sepsis 
While sepsis can develop in any patient, older individuals, who represent the bulk of home healthcare patients, are most at risk. A study published in the World Journal of Critical Care Medicine attributes the high incidence of sepsis in elderly patients to reduced immune system functions, high rates of co-morbidities and frequent and long hospital stays. Sepsis is the top reason for ICU admissions for elderly patients.   

2. Sepsis advances quickly 
The insidiousness of sepsis lies in its ability to progress rapidly. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine of more than 49,000 patients at 149 hospitals in New York State found that for every hour clinicians don't engage in sepsis control protocols, mortality rates increase by between 3 percent and 4 percent, Stat News reported. 

3. Sepsis is becoming antibiotic resistant 
There is growing concern over antibiotic resistance in the treatment of sepsis, a challenging issue seeing as antibiotics are a key treatment for the condition, as the Sepsis Alliance Explained. One study of 76 patients in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences found that the six antibiotics used most often to to treat infections demonstrated an average resistance higher than 50 percent

4. We're probably noticing sepsis more 
While the number of cases of sepsis has more than tripled in recent years, health experts say that the explanation is more likely that the condition seems more prevalent today because clinicians have gotten better at identifying the signs of sepsis, according to Bloomberg. 

Clinicians are "actually recognizing a much more common condition than we realized in the past was actually there," said Dr. Greg Martin, a professor of medicine at Emory University, in an interview with the source. 

5. Prevention is the best medicine 
The facts above point to an important conclusion: Prevention is the most effective way of combating sepsis. More comprehensive infection control protocols can help clinicians mitigate risk factors and identify patients most likely to develop the condition. Take the example of New York State, which saw sepsis mortality rates decrease nearly 16 percent as a result of the new and improved infection control processes. 

An EMR with enhanced infection control protocols is an important ally in the fight against sepsis. HHAs should choose a platform that enables clinicians and staff to have greater visibility into infection stages and provide more detailed documentation. Thornberry's NDoc® solution now features enhanced infection control protocols that include expanded data-collection fields and agency-wide reports – learn more about NDoc®, sepsis and Medicare infection control compliance here

Home health spending is slated to increase more than any other health care category.

Home health spending to skyrocket

Now that spring has come – at least according to the calendar – it's a great time to scrub the floors, open the windows and let the fresh air in. But if you work in the home health industry, it's also an opportune time to reassess your agency's budget and strategic priorities. The seasons aren't the only things changing – so is home health spending. 

Recent findings from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary predicts that home health spending will increase 6.7 percent by 2020, which is a higher growth rate than any other health care category, Home Health Care News reported. With spending set to compound over the next several years, HHAs should consider their future growth and resource needs today. 

Let's take a closer look at changing spending patterns in the home health industry and what they mean for your agency:

A growing market 
In addition to the 6.7 percent annual growth rate between now and 2020, the Office of the Actuary forecasted that home health spending will rise to $103 billion this year alone, representing a growth rate of 5.9 percent compared to 2017. Furthermore, industry spending is expected to increase to $173 billion by 2026. 

It's not just home health investment that is increasing, however, but total health care expenditure across the board. CMS predicts national health spending will display a 5.5 percent annual growth rate between 2017 and 2026, rising to a total spend of $5.7 trillion by 2026. This follows 4.3 percent spending growth in overall health care in 2016. 

Medicare and Medicaid spending in particular will also see an increase, rising 7.4 percent and 5.8 percent annually per year by 2026. Expenditures in these categories have already kicked off their forward momentum, with Medicaid spending growth anticipated to jump to 6.9 percent this year from the modest 2.9 percent growth seen in 2017. 

home health Home health spending is rapidly increasing – invest in the best technology so you don't fall behind.

Why the increases?
There are a number of factors that industry analysts attributed to the rise in home health spending. One main reason is an aging population – researchers say 20 percent of U.S. citizens will be age 65 and older by 2030, according to the Census Bureau. By 2050, there will be 83.7 million people age 65 and older, nearly double the amount in 2012.

The CMS Office of the Actuary cites higher incomes and more expensive medical goods and services as other reasons for the spending growth. 

So what do all these numbers mean to you?

It's time to invest 
Your HHA needs to be able to remain competitive with fellow agencies that are all spending more of their resources to improve quality of care. There are two key steps critical to doing this. 

First, your HHA needs to adopt a forward-looking approach to operations – what will you need to do now to set yourself up for success five years down the line? How will your agency capitalize on an accelerating market over the next decade, while navigating inevitable payment reform and downward pressure on reimbursement? Taking a long-term view of strategy can help you ensure the sustainability of care and remain agile.

Second, it's time to invest in the best home health technology. With competitors enhancing their platforms, you can't afford to skate by with a solely adequate system any longer. An innovative and responsive EMR like Thornberry's NDoc® solution can provide your agency with the dependable technological infrastructure it needs to grow productivity and manage and administer care seamlessly and efficiently.

With home health spending surging over the next several years, you need to make sure your HHA earns part of the pie. Invest in industry-leading home health technology to remain competitive and improve your quality of care.