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By Annie Keller

Published June 23, 2020

It’s possible to endlessly list recent changes in healthcare thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, but one that deserves mention is home healthcare. Hospital capacity has received a great deal of media attention, but those who need and give home healthcare much less so.

5 million people in the United States currently receive some form of in-home healthcare. Many of those people are elderly or disabled and can potentially suffer the most if they are infected with COVID-19. To further complicate matters, many of the previously healthy who are infected will need some form of home healthcare while they recover. Since there’s already not enough home healthcare workers to go around, someone will have to go without – or at least with less of what they need. The workers themselves are also vulnerable; Most of them have multiple clients and travel a great deal to get to them.

There have been many initiatives to expand telehealth services in the wake of the epidemic. This could potentially cut the need for some of those home healthcare workers, but those patients who need direct assistance with personal care or drug administration won’t be able to benefit from that. And while there have been some initiatives to have home healthcare workers get free or reduced price protective equipment, they haven’t been nearly as numerous.

Home healthcare has many advantages that most people aren’t aware of.  On average , it’s 53% less expensive than inpatient care. 90% of patients have said they would prefer in home care to any other kind. The services can bridge the gap between telehealth and inpatient care, since a home healthcare worker can take readings most people can’t on their own and then send them to a doctor to interpret the results.

Some healthcare providers have already anticipated this and have started to switch to a home-based care system. It remains to be seen whether other providers will follow suit. But it’s clear that home healthcare is wanted by many people, and at the same time will have to change some things if it wants to stay available.

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