In The News

Cyber Attacks Hurt Home Health Operations – But Patient Outcomes Are Next

Home Health Care News | By Patrick Filbin
For home-based care providers, cyber attacks are less likely to be an “if,” and more likely to be a “when.”
And, as cyber attackers get more creative and persistent, it’s important for providers to understand the implications of attacks.
“Over the last 18 months, we’re seeing massive impacts to patient care,” Fortified Health Security CEO Dan Dodson told Home Health Care News. “In the health system space, we’re seeing organizations go down for weeks and months, literally diverting care. It’s one thing for a patient record to be exposed, and nobody wants that. But it’s an entirely different set of circumstances when you can’t deliver care.”
Fortified Health is a Tennessee-based cybersecurity firm.
In order to be as prepared as possible, provider leaders need to know what to look for and what their staff needs to look for. They also need to be equipped with the proper resources when an attack does come to fruition.
Over the past decade, cyber security experts have seen a gradual uptick in cases where attackers are pursuing private information.
“It hasn’t been just this year, although we have seen a number of them already, but it’s gradually been increasing probably over the last 10 years, especially at the start of 2020,” Barbara Citarella, the president of RBC Limited, told HHCN. “The problem for most home-based care agencies is they don’t know what to do when a cyber event happens: what the protocol is, who they should be calling, how detailed it is — to make sure that you’re covering yourself in regard to HIPAA violations and things like that.”
RBC Limited assists agencies with strategic planning for leadership, health care reform and business continuity. Citarella also serves as a subject matter expert to the United States Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response.
Cyber attacks on health care organizations are perfect for attackers, Citarella said, because of the wide dearth of information held by health care organizations.
Home-based care providers’ systems are generally vulnerable to attacks, Citarella said. Thus, they should be doing regular risk assessments and should be backing up their own data on a separate server.
“We had a big home care event that took place in 2019, and the agencies that backed up their own data were up and running very quickly, and the agencies that used a third-party biller couldn’t access their information for a long time,” Citarella said. “Agencies have to back up their own information on a separate system, and they should be testing that separate system to see how quickly they can get up and running.”
Consolidation of home health and home care agencies have added to the urgency for protection to be put in place, Citarella said. The attackers are also evolving as the industry grows.
“They’re much more sophisticated,” she said. “They’re coming from a number of countries and interestingly enough, drug cartels are now doing it. It’s a lot easier to take information and steal somebody’s identity if you don’t have to have a force out on the ground. You just need a bunch of people in an office.”
Jason Vander Velde, a senior manager on the IT management team at Wipfli, also has seen an uptick in sophisticated attacks.

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How Data Can Help Home-Based Care Providers Zero In On Growth Opportunities

Home Health Care News | By Patrick Filbin

Home-based care providers, and others in the post-acute care space, need to start collecting the right kind of data in order to get quality outcomes and reach growth targets.
Being on top of Minimum Data Set (MDS) collection and having accurate and detailed coding can be two of the most important aspects of improving outcomes.
“If your coding is done accurately and correctly — and if you’re able to leverage your MDS — you can start to figure out ways to use that data in meaningful ways,” Pathway Health COO Lisa Thomson, said during a panel at the LeadingAge Illinois conference this week. “That all could help drive some opportunities for competency training, clinical training, programmatic development, strategic positioning and aligning with specific partners to really grow your business and retain staff.”
Collecting and using data can be an overwhelming process for home-based care providers. That’s especially true when it seems like the rules and regulations change on a yearly basis.
“The demographics are shifting, and continue to shift, for the type of care and services that we provide,” Thompson said. “It’s important for providers to know how we take some key data points and help us use those data points to drive decisions.”
Thompson used the example of providers across the post-acute spectrum understanding what lane they want to operate in.
Improving quality measures for clinical and chronic diseases is a huge opportunity for providers, Thompson said, and finding a niche within that can be helpful.
Using public data that is now available — due to CMS requiring certain measures to be collected — is one way to find those niches.
“Those chronic diseases are ones that our physician partners, our clinician partners and our acute care partners are being monitored for,” Thompson said. “Who’s the best at chronic disease management in the whole health care sector? We are, as leaders in post-acute care. Chronic diseases are where we have that opportunity.”
By narrowing in on service needs, and using MDS and ICD-10 coding, providers have the ability to build towards a certain focus area.
“Using this data, you can look at trends in your organization and [leverage that against] your marketplace to see what’s the growth potential for Medicare and Medicaid individuals with those disease states that align with the likeness and the demographics of your organization,” Thompson said. “Or you could make changes in your organization to build towards a certain focus.”

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Report: 5 Million Home Health Jobs Will Need To Be Filled By 2040

Home Health Care News | By Patrick Filbin
Home health employment is expected to rise steadily.
The industry will eventually have to fill an estimated 5 million jobs by 2040, according to a new report.
Those numbers are according to a new study that took a closer look at the steady growth of the senior care industry and what the job market will look like as demand continues to rise.
From Argentum, “The Workforce Projections for Senior Care” uses forecasts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It found that total employment in the senior care industry is projected to reach 8.3 million by 2040. That’s a more than 42% increase from where it is today.
Home health care specifically is projected to hit 2.2 million by 2040, a 45.7% increase from 1.5 million in 2021. Home health represents the largest projected rise of all the senior care industries – more than senior living, skilled nursing and services for the elderly with disabilities.
The report points out that the 45.7% increase is just in new jobs. In addition to the new jobs, there will be an estimated 4.4 million open jobs by 2040 due to employees leaving the industry, either by retiring or transferring to a new line of work.
“In total, the home health care industry will need to fill more than 5 million occupational openings between 2021 and 2040,” the report found.
Looking at a more near-term growth projection, employment growth is expected to be at nearly 20% from 2021 to 2030. That would mean the home health industry would see more than 297,000 new jobs and an additional 1.9 million job openings.
Elsewhere in the report, Argentum makes the case that while the senior population grows, the workforce is not keeping pace, particularly in the senior care industry.
“The senior population is increasing by 10,000 per day — more than at any other time in history — and the need for senior living and the socialization and care we provide in our communities will never be greater,” the report read. “We are facing a significant worker shortage across the economy generally but within senior care, in particular.”
Among the positions needed, home health and personal care aides top the list, followed by nursing assistants and registered nurses.


Who is Most at Risk for Long COVID?

A new study of more than 800,000 people has found that in the U.S., COVID "long haulers" were more likely to be older and female, with more chronic conditions than people in a comparison group who—after getting COVID—did not have diagnosed long COVID or any of the symptoms associated with long COVID. The findings are published in the March issue of Health Affairs.

The national study, which focused on people with private insurance or Medicare Advantage coverage, aims to inform public health and clinical care by advancing the understanding of who gets long COVID.

As one of the largest studies of long COVID in the U.S. to date, in terms of the number and diversity of people studied and the length of time symptoms and diagnoses were followed, the study solidifies many previous insights about the demographics and clinical profile of people most likely to get sick.

It also provides new information to consider about the complex interaction of COVID-19 in patients with previously diagnosed chronic illnesses.

"This work in a large population helps to address the question of who is more at risk of long COVID," said Zirui Song, associate professor in the Department of Health Care Policy in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School, lead author of the article.

"This may help clinicians and health care organizations screen, monitor, and treat patients more effectively. It may also help individuals, who know their own medical history, better assess their risk of long COVID and the value of protecting against getting COVID-19 in the first place," Song said.

The study's findings also indicate that symptoms of long COVID can appear or persist much longer after initial infection than many previous studies had suggested.

Most earlier work showed a peak of long COVID symptoms and diagnoses within the first six months of a person's initial COVID-19 diagnosis, the authors note, but the new research shows another, smaller peak around one year, which the authors note was significantly longer than the follow-up period of most initial studies.

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FDA Authorizes Pfizer Covid Booster For Kids As Young As 6 Months

Kaiser Health News 

The shot is for children who were previously vaccinated with three doses of the original vaccine. In other covid-related news, operators of an upscale Los Angeles care facility for dementia patients were charged Tuesday with felony elder abuse.

CNBC: FDA Authorizes Pfizer's Covid Omicron Booster As Fourth Shot For Kids Under 5The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized Pfizer’s omicron booster shot for kids under five years old who were previously vaccinated with three doses of the company’s original vaccine.  Children six months through four years old who completed their three-dose primary series with Pfizer and BioNTech’s original monovalent shots more than two months ago are now eligible to receive a single booster dose of the updated shot. The new shot is bivalent, meaning it targets the original Covid strain as well as omicron BA.4 and BA.5. (Constantino, 3/14)

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