UVA researchers reveal shortage in at-home medical care

UVA researchers reveal shortage in at-home medical care
(Source: Live 5/File)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - There has been a recent jump in healthcare workers providing home services for Medicare patients, but researchers at University of Virginia Health say it is nowhere close to meeting the surging demand.

Dr. Aaron Yao and Dr. Justin Mutter say with our country’s aging population, a significant number of people need to receive medical care at home now. Unfortunately, many of these patients go unseen because there aren’t enough staff or resources to meet the demand.

“Only about 15% of our frail and homebound patients have never received medical care at home, so the good majority are just sick and have lots of problems at home,” Yao said. “A lot of our colleagues call them invisible. They’re invisible to the society and to the healthcare system.”

Dr. Yao says at-home medical care is taking a back seat.

“It’s only about 0.7% of Medicare physicians or physicians in Medicare’s program that are providing routine homecare nowadays,” he said.

Yao says this is because at-home care is often more costly and time-consuming.

“It’s really hard life for a lot of these patients and their family members bear a lot of burden caring for these people without any support from our health system,” he said.

Dr. Mutter says there needs to be a concerted effort at the state and federal level to incite real policy change.

“We need to think about how to innovate and change that status quo to deliver care in the home rather than in office based settings for these populations,” Mutter said. “We need our various payers in the healthcare system and people in the policy world to really think about this population, particularly this very high risk, high need population.”

To address the issue on a local level, he started UVA’s “Virginia at Home” program to bring home medical care to central Virginia.

“We really see this need profoundly, not only in the city of Charlottesville, but in many of our surrounding counties,” Mutter said. “We serve both urban and rural populations.”

Mutter is optimistic the problem can be resolved beyond just Charlottesville.

“If we bring this person-centered care to individuals and caregivers in their homes, everybody wins,” Mutter said. “There’s a lot of patient satisfaction that comes out of this, health care outcomes tend to be better, and also costs tend to go down because people feel like they’re finally able to get that care that they need.”

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