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Caring Through Advocacy

The way to deal with the constant barrage of new and updated legislation from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) may be simple – give a voice to the patients that you care for on a daily basis!

Some people imagine advocacy as highly paid healthcare professionals and lawyers lobbying for home health and speaking to healthcare policy changes. That’s true of some advocacy, but the heart of advocacy is helping others like yourself. The Latin root of the word “advocacy,” advocare, means to “call to someone’s aid.”  Axxess recently participated in a visit to our nation’s capital with state associations, and these open opportunities can be a great way to gain insight into how each of us can advocate for home health.

But while some advocacy does involve travel to Washington DC, there may be an effective strategy to complement the efforts of paid lobbyists. A grassroots campaign, where those who care for patients or receive care from home health contact their local member of Congress. Sharing stories of the benefit of home care strengthens the support for our ever-growing industry.

Adrian Killebrew and Congressman Pete Sessions

Adrian Killebrew and Congressman Pete Sessions

Our industry needs advocates now more than ever. Sweeping changes and demonstrations in the last year alone –Value-Based Purchasing, Pre-Claim Review, Probe and Educate (mandatory ADRs) – just to name a few, with more to come. CMS is leading an intense fight against fraud, both perceived and real, and this does not address such issues as Face-to-Face requirements and other challenges with initiating care, and there is some confusion about meeting requirements. With all of these changes, one could almost miss the most important part of our jobs: making patients feel better.

Home health has impacted the lives of many people. The late Senator Teddy Kennedy was able to spend his last days at home with the aid of home health professionals. Some us have parents or grandparents, people who have worked very hard all of their lives, that want to age in place in their homes, versus being in long-term care facilities. How do we get members of Congress to hear these stories? We need to give voices to our patients.

Here are three easy steps for advocating for home health.

  1. Ask questions—When you hear about the latest change occurring in the industry, seek to understand. Check with your state association, software vendor, consultants, and colleagues to ensure you are making the necessary changes in your business and align with policies changes. Then generate your opinion about how you feel the changes actually impact you, the patients you serve, and your business.
  2. Connect with like-minded agencies— If a new policy change concerns you, it probably impacts those around you as well. Talk to other agencies that you trust to share best practices. Our industry needs all the help it can get in serving patients, make sure you engage with agencies in your area for the sake of the industry.
  3. Tell your story—Politicians, news reporters, and many others need to understand the importance of home health. Many have no idea what you do every day. Often the only message someone has received about home health is it is an industry is plagued with fraud. We know there are agencies with issues and those that have taken advantage of the system, but the majority is in it for the care of patients. Become the microphone for your patients; they often are not able to share the impact of home health to the necessary parties. Share their stories (while remaining HIPPA-compliant, of course) to educate members of Congress and other key stakeholders about the benefits of home health care.

If you do not know how to share your story, start with your member of Congress in your legislative district.   State associations provide great resources to help you share your story. Telling our patients’ stories is a potent way of fixing our legislative issues, by rallying critical voices for advocacy in home health.

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