HMH to launch innovative Hospital at Home program in Edison

Pilot program literally will bring services — nurses, therapists, even food — to patients’ homes

Hackensack Meridian Health has been adding ambulatory centers, urgent care centers and a variety of other health care outlets at a great pace in recent years. By adding more facilities, CEO Bob Garrett said the system is able to provide care closer to where patients live.

This week in Edison, HMH is announcing a Hospital at Home program that literally will bring care all the way to the patient’s home.

The pilot program, run out of JFK University Medical Center, will start with a handful of patients with a selected number of diagnoses that can be treated outside of a facility — including, but not limited to, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cellulitis.

The patients, who must live within a 10-mile radius of JFK Medical Center, will have nurses and therapists visit them in their home just as they would in an acute care facility. They even will have food service.

The treatment, which is expected to last up to four days, will be covered by the Medicare waiver that was approved during COVID-19 as an alternative care. And, while the concept was somewhat created because of the pandemic enhancing a smaller at-home program HMH already had Garrett feels it will outlive COVID.

“What we saw during the pandemic was that people, in large numbers, either wanted to receive care closer to home or wanted to even have their care rendered out of their home through technology,” he told ROI-NJ. “We’re focused on that.

“That’s not to say by any means that hospitals are going to become obsolete. There is still going to be a very important place for hospitals. But, I think, as time continues to move forward, you’re going to see more and more care being delivered in innovative ways through technology.

“Those trends certainly existed before the pandemic, but I think they’ve been accelerated by the pandemic.”

Patients for the Hospital at Home program will be identified in a number of ways, including a telehealth conference or a visit to the emergency room at JFK Medical Center. But they could also be existing patients in the hospital, sent home earlier than they would have been.

Garrett said it is a win-win situation one that not only can provide cost savings to the patient, the health system and insurer, but one that may prove to provide better care.

“There’s a lot of data out there about healing in the home and how that does work, enhancing patient outcomes,” he said.

While HMH is not the first to attempt such a scenario, Garrett’s goal is to quickly ramp up the program and be a leader both in New Jersey and around the country.

To do that, HMH will gather various data points in an effort to improve care and the logistics of providing it.

“Here’s what we hope to learn from this pilot program: Are the services we’re providing appropriate? Do we need to adjust them if we’re going to scale this up? Do we need other things? Do we need to alter anything at all?” he said.

“The other piece is finding common ground with commercial insurance companies to provide Hospital at Home services throughout all the communities that we serve and connect thing to each of our hospitals.”

The scale of HMH and the fact the system already has a home health program that operates on a smaller scale makes it easier to implement. And, more importantly, staff.

“Staffing is always going to be a challenge, especially in today’s day and age, but I think we have one leg up because we have a very well-established home health program now, which is resourced, and we’ve been able to keep staffing fairly steady there,” Garrett said.

“We also have, from an equipment perspective, a really strong supply chain. We have the durable medical equipment that is being used in the home now by our home health nurses and our home health workers.”

Garrett said the program aligns with HMH’s mission to transform health care.

“The whole idea behind having so many facilities is to provide better access to care,” he said. “This is literally taking patients and providing acute care services in their home.

“It’s exciting. And I think it’s really where health care is going.”