How Nursing Sector Reforms Will Change Your Home Health Care Agency

Rob Scott

Written on 5 July, 2022
Recently announced industry reforms won’t just affect nursing homes. Home health care agencies will experience a knock-on effect, and should begin adapting now so they can not just weather the changes but thrive.

President Biden’s proposed nursing home reforms are set to transform how the healthcare industry operates. While not yet law, their inclusion in the State of the Address as well as in White House briefs demonstrate the administration’s determination to pass them.

The proposed reforms are ambitious, and would drastically impact the nursing sector. Yet they are also focused on improving the safety and quality of care for older Americans and people with disabilities. Both care receivers and caregivers would benefit from them. 

Meanwhile, home health care agencies might be wondering whether changes to nursing home regulations would affect them — and, if so, whether they should be worried. Let’s explore what the nursing sector reforms mean for the healthcare industry, and in particular, home health care agencies.

Nursing Sector Reforms: What Is Being Proposed?

The proposed nursing sector reforms are focused on nursing homes and split into five categories:

1. Ensuring Taxpayer Dollars Support Nursing Homes that Provide Safe, Adequate, and Dignified Care

Proposals include improving nursing home minimum staffing levels, reducing the use of antipsychotic drugs, promoting the use of single-occupancy rooms, and strengthening the Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program. The SNF VBP Program normally allocates funding based on hospital readmissions, but the proposed reforms will see funding based on staff turnover and “adequacy,” the resident experience, and other factors.

2. Enhancing Accountability and Oversight

This reform would see greater funding of, and more rigorous, inspections of nursing homes. There would be increased technical assistance to help homes improve, as well as stricter financial penalties, more accountability for facility owners, and a “tougher and more impactful” Special Focus Facility (SFF) program for poor-performing nursing homes.

3. Increasing Transparency

This section of the proposed reforms is centered around increasing the amount of publicly available information, including through increased information on the review site Care Compare and databases of nursing home owners and operators. The role of private equity in nursing homes would also be “examined.”

4. Creating Pathways to Good-Paying Jobs with the Free and Fair Choice to Join a Union

Proposed reforms include ensuring nurse aide training is affordable; encouraging States to tie Medicaid payments to staff compensation, with pay increases for those with experience or specializations; and a National Nursing Career Pathways Campaign that would focus on training, career progression, and labor unions.

5. Ensuring Pandemic and Emergency Preparedness in Nursing Homes

There are five actions in this section. They include continued COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and boosters in long-term care facilities; more rigorous requirements for on-site infection preventionists and pandemic and emergency preparedness; and integrating pandemic lessons into nursing homes.

What Do Nursing Sector Reforms Mean for Home Health Care Agencies?

Although the proposed reforms are focused on nursing homes, they will still impact home health care agencies. Some of this will be indirect, in the form of changing attitudes toward standards of care for older Americans and Americans with disabilities. Other aspects will have a more immediate effect. 

Here are some of the biggest ways home health care agencies can expect to be impacted:

Increased competition for qualified nurses and caregivers 

As the ratio of nurses to care receivers improves in nursing homes, demand for qualified caregivers will rise. This will only be exacerbated by the US’s aging population and pandemic-induced burnout among health care professionals

Home health care agencies should focus on improving caregivers’ job satisfaction so they can attract and retain qualified staff. Low-hanging fruit here includes flexible schedules, strong internal communications, positive relationships with managers, and training opportunities.

Rising average pay rates for nurses and caregivers

As caregivers in Medicare-affiliated nursing homes receive higher wages, pay rates across the board will likely rise. Home health care agencies will need to offer competitive rates to attract staff, in addition to creating good working conditions. Timely payments, along with smooth processes for timekeeping and expenses, will also help. 

Higher expectations of transparency, accountability, and care quality

As increased transparency becomes the norm in nursing homes, care receivers will also begin to look for it from their at-home care. Moreover, we can reasonably expect future health care regulations to move in this general direction. 

Health care agencies should pay particular attention to their record-keeping and processes to ensure they can meet these expectations. In particular, make sure you’re using digital records such as care plans and progress notes, and that care receivers and their loved ones can access all the information they need about their care.

Adapting to Nursing Sector Reforms as a Home Health Care Agencies

Although the proposed reforms have not yet been made law — and some of them will require congress’s approval — they are a clear indication of what the government wants for health care in the US. 

For health care agencies, the main impact will be increased competition and potentially higher pay rates across the nursing industry. This builds on a trend we are already witnessing in the healthcare industry in 2022

However, with good preparation, home healthcare agencies will be well-positioned to handle the upcoming changes in the nursing industry. By paying attention to their caregivers’ job satisfaction levels and offering attractive wages alongside a positive working environment, they can retain and attract talented staff. In turn, this will allow them to remain competitive in a growing industry.

Here at ShiftCare, we design software to help you improve your relationship with your caregivers. Our scheduler tool will let you build efficient schedules around employees’ preferred hours, while our timekeeping, expenses, and invoicing features mean you can pay staff the correct wages in just a couple of clicks. Try ShiftCare for free today.

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