Christopher McCann says hospitals should not plan for the past.
McCann is the CEO of Current Health, a technology company that helps health systems deliver home health care, including clinical programs. The Scottish health chief sees great promise in home health care, but also understands why other health leaders may be tempted to look to hospital care.
“I think hospitals are in a tough spot right now,” McCann says. “They’ve seen their numbers and their incomes go down, their costs are high, very high. So I think a lot of leaders are saying, ‘We’re going to focus on what we know best, which is patience, heads in bed.'”
“We’re also seeing more hospitals realizing that the future is going to be different, and we can’t just invest in what we’ve done in the past,” he continues. “We have to invest in the future.”
And that means focusing on providing more care at home, including critical care, he says.
McCann said: “The future is not going to be bleak.” “Everyone agrees that part of the future of care will be home care. So we have to think about the future.”
McCann spoke with Chief Healthcare Education at the HLTH Conference in November. He shared his thoughts on healthcare reform, how he feels Best Buy’s acquisition of Current Health has led to the company’s growth, and how healthcare leaders can ensure home care continues to thrive.
There will always be a hospital, but he says some patients can get the best treatment at home.
“To me, that’s how we provide, without being cliche, the right care in the right place at the right time for people,” says McCann. (Check out part of our conversation in this video. This article continues below.)
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitals have been providing home health care, as the federal government has given health systems flexibility to provide home health care. Congress and President Biden agreed to a two-year extension of the changes in the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, which Biden signed in late December.
Home health care programs are “one of the most experimental programs to come out of the pandemic,” Kyle Zebley, senior vice president of public policy at the American Telemedicine Association, said. Chief Healthcare Executive in December. He called the extension of the removal of hospitals from home a “great success.”
To date, 260 hospitals (114 health systems) in 37 states are offering home health programs, according to the government.
With so many machines launching or exploring such methods, McCann says, “We’re very excited about how we’re growing.”
Current Health works with more than 20 health systems.
“We work with a lot of health systems in the country, people like Geisinger, UMass, NYU, Mount Sinai,” McCann says. “We work all over the United States, from home health care, to chronic disease management. We’re trying to be a single solution, whether it’s a very sick person in a home care setting, or a chronically ill patient.”
Join Best Buy
Best Buy’s purchase of the company bodes well for its long-term prospects, he says. The retailer known for computers and electronics moved into the healthcare space after acquiring Current Health in a $400 million deal in 2021.
With the acquisition, Current Health’s expertise is combined with Best Buy’s strengths in product management and inventory management. Health systems “are excited about this,” McCann says.
Best Buy brought in health care leaders, he adds. Deborah DiSanzo, president of Best Buy Health, has been in the hospital for 30 years, she says. Best Buy built “the right medical team,” McCann says.
“I think he went into it with the right mindset and my mindset, mature and smart,” McCann says. “They knew they needed a company like ours, and they went out and looked at the market, and thankfully they thought we were the best. It took us a really good amount of time. We thought that being successful in this space required some of the things that Best Buy had. So it came together really well.”
Looking to the future
While many healthcare leaders see more care being moved to the home, McCann sees the future as a blending of home care and medical care within hospitals.
“A lot of people are saying that the home will be a substitute for the hospital. I think that’s not right,” says McCann. “There are many people who need to stay in hospitals. Hospitals are always places where care needs to be given.
“The thing for me is, is there a part of the care that is in the hospital today, that can be provided in the home,” he adds. “I think we’ve seen the COVID, that’s for sure.”
Another aspect of Current Health is focusing beyond acute care and managing chronic illnesses at home, as well as long-term care.
“Healthcare doesn’t need solutions for people,” says McCann. “They want one solution that will help them across the business.” “Patients don’t just stockpile these things,” he says. “We want to follow them as they go from hospital to home to hospital, and back to hospital to home, and give consumers one unified experience, not a fragmented experience, but one experience that follows them on their journey.”
Supporters reported encouraging studies that show positive outcomes for patients in clinical programs, including reduced readmissions.
However, some healthcare leaders have been reluctant to invest in clinical software and other home-based technology solutions. While many healthcare leaders see the potential for such strategies to improve patient care, many do not recognize expanding home delivery as a priority, according to a recent survey of healthcare executives by Sage Growth Partners. Others are also hoping for more assurances of long-term federal reimbursements.
However, patients are showing they want more options for home care, and healthcare leaders need to consider their preferences, McCann says.
“In the future, consumers will choose their service provider based on who does and who doesn’t,” says McCann. “You have to do it now, because otherwise, you’ll be five years behind.”
Creating software applications
While there are technical requirements for implementing home health programs, it’s not that difficult, McCann says.
“I say this as a technology leader, technology is not the most important part of this,” says McCann. “I’m making sure you buy more across the organization.”
Hospital administrators need to make sure home health care programs are a priority and not a side project, he says.
“It needs buy-in from the CEO,” says McCann. “It needs medical leaders, it needs nursing leaders, it needs IT leaders and they all need to be bought together.”
Hospitals must establish clinical procedures and select appropriate patients. Some patients may become seriously ill and need to be hospitalized.
The most successful clinical programs also have strong leadership from nurses, McCann says.
“They’re doing a really important job of running these programs, helping identify patients … and spending a lot of time in the home with those patients,” he says.
Nurses who participate in home health care programs report higher job satisfaction, which McCann calls surprising.
He says so. “If they have eight patients on the floor, and they’re only being opened every two minutes, and they’re being called to leave, they’re not going to have much time with the patient.”
McCann says the programs won’t lead to a change in nurses, saying they are vital to the health care workforce.
“These programs are only successful with amazing nursing and medical teams,” she says.
“We need to kill the term ‘passionate care’,” he says. “It’s not real, but it’s physical care. And we need nurses to come into homes and provide care. I don’t always change employees. “
Ultimately, McCann says Current Health’s success will be based on demonstrating the clinical and financial health practices of clinical programs and their success in patient care and satisfaction.
But he says another important factor comes in satisfying an often-overlooked constituency: service providers.
“The experience for them must be amazing,” says McCann. “It must be easier for them to do this than to put a patient down, or they won’t do it.”
“We need to make the provider and the doctor amazing, and I don’t think there’s been enough focus on that last part,” he adds. “They’re rare, and I think that’s a mistake.”