Is Mobile-Integrated Healthcare an Answer to the Home Health Aide Shortage? 

Home health aides are essential for many people to survive and thrive in their homes. The Home Health Aide shortage has put numerous patients at risk and left them struggling to find good help. Fortunately, Mobile-Integrated Health (MIH) has some answers. 

Mobile-Integrated health can help provide care to patients in their homes. However, Mobile Integrated Health programs, such as Community Paramedicine, are not designed to replace the work of home health aides. Instead, MIH’s best chance to help with the personal care aide shortage is to augment care and continue championing the importance of home-based care. 

This article will discuss how home health and mobile integrated healthcare overlap, how they are different, and how MIH-CP might be able to help with the home health aide shortage. 

What’s the Situation with the Home Health Aide Shortage? 

Let’s begin by discussing the nature of the home health aide shortage. Home health aides work with patients to perform numerous tasks. This could be helping them move around, helping them with meals, and alerting their physician if something is wrong. 

We want to be careful not to generalize home health aides too broadly. The people classified as home health aides or personal care aides may do very different things based on their level of training, the state they work in, and the patients they care for. 

Why is there a home health aide shortage? Two main reasons (but there could be many more based on individual situations). 

Several reasons for home health aide shortages: 

  • Demand is high. First, more and more people need home health care. There have been numerous reports about the benefits of aging in place. When people stay in their own homes, there are often many benefits that are difficult to quantify. But maybe that adage, “there’s no place like home,” says it all. 
  • Wages are low. Pay hasn’t been adjusted to give workers enough incentive to stay in home health roles. Taking care of someone is a big responsibility, and it requires careful and reliable workers. Many workers haven’t seen the average wages grow to meet the cost of living, so they are turning to other jobs that pay more and don’t require as much responsibility. 

Now, let’s discuss if MIH can help. 

Can MIH-CP Help with the Home Health Aide Shortage? 

We know there is a shortage of home health workers and a few reasons why, but can mobile-integrated healthcare really help? 

There are ways that mobile integrated health programs and community paramedicine can help home health aides. But we should be clear: MIH-CP will not replace home health aides – that is not what MIH-CP is designed to do.

However, the philosophies and models of mobile integrated healthcare can help promote and augment some aspects of home healthcare. We think MIH is a good thing for home health, and let’s talk about a few specific reasons why. 

How mobile integrated healthcare can help with home health aide shortages: 

  • Overlap of care with Home Healthcare and Mobile Integrated Healthcare
  • Mobile Integrated Healthcare makes the home safer 
  • Giving patients another option (Besides 911)
  • Building a framework for the allocation of resources 

Now, we’ll look at these things in more depth. 

How Home Health Care and MIH-CP Overlap 

The first reason mobile integrated healthcare can help with the home health aide shortage is that there is some overlap. Let’s be clear, there is not a ton of overlap, but there is some that can make a difference. 

How, specifically, do these two models overlap? 

First, they both offer care in the home. This might seem a little obvious, but it is crucial. Any health program meeting patients in their homes often provides comfort and safety to patients who cannot travel. 

And, while mobile integrated healthcare doesn’t necessarily offer patients the same type of care, they are at least checking in regularly, giving patients something to reach out to. 

Second, MIH-CP and home health aides can help catch an illness before it gets out of hand. Unfortunately, many patients will push off symptoms rather than have them checked. Anyone who comes into their home regularly can help find and correct illness. 

Let’s talk about how MIH programs can promote safety.

MIH Makes the Home a Safer Environment 

The second reason mobile integrated healthcare can help with home health aide shortages is that MIH professionals can help patients live in a safer environment. Modern technology can give patients safety nets that help them cope with more time spent alone. 

Here are several ways MIH helps. 

First, community paramedics and mobile integrated health professionals can identify environmental dangers and have connections to create fixes. For example, many patient homes are not optimized for safe mobility. 

Mobile integrated healthcare professionals such as community paramedics can suggest things like ramps at the front doors, handles in the hallways, and accessible showers. They can also identify trip hazards, like rugs and broken thresholds. They can suggest that patients receive an emergency button necklace, ensuring they have help when needed. 

Second, they can help patients stay regular with their medications, exercise, and diets. When a clinician comes to a patient’s home, even if it’s just monthly, they have the opportunity to help the patient form better habits. 

Note: these ways a community paramedic can help will not replace home health aides. These are only measures that may help patients cope with a shortage. 

Mobile Integrated Healthcare Gives Patients Another Option 

Giving patients another option to call besides 911 helps promote a healthy lifestyle for the patient and a streamlined environment for the health system. What does that mean? 

Unfortunately, one of the many side effects of the home health aide shortage is its strain on the health system. This happens in several ways. First, patients who don’t have regular home care can be at risk of falls. Some patients can fall several times a month, leading to repeated 911 calls and visits from the ambulance. 

Furthermore, patients who don’t have access to adequate home health care will have more unrecognized conditions. This could be something like diabetes or heart disease. Without someone checking on them regularly, there is no way for the physicians to understand the trends of their condition, which can lead to several issues.

Patients without regular care will often be in the hospital more and for extended stays. This can lead to 911 delays and a clogged system. The saddest part is that much of this is avoidable. 

Mobile-integrated healthcare gives patients another option. While MIH-CP doesn’t usually perform daily home care like a home health aide, they still help the patient in multiple ways. They give the patient someone to turn to besides a 911 call. Depending on the condition, the MIH team might be able to treat the patient in the field, avoiding a hospital visit altogether. 

Second, community paramedicine teams can help patients manage their health. This keeps down the rate of hospital readmissions and can limit the number of times the patient visits the ER. 

Let’s discuss the last ways MIH-CP can help home health aides. 

Building a Framework to Help Patients (Making Home Health Aids Part of Integrated Healthcare) 

Finally, mobile-integrated health teams can partner with home health aides and agencies. This means that home health teams become part of mobile integrated healthcare. 

Mobile integrated health does not represent one specific type of care. While MIH often refers to community paramedicine, it could also mean many other types of care – these include mental health care, substance rehab, homeless outreach, alternate transport for ambulances, and more. 

Mobile integrated healthcare is more an idea than it is a specific entity. 

With that said, how does this relate to the home health aide shortage? Well, it means that home health aides and their institutions can become part of a more comprehensive health program – an integrated program. 

An integrated program has several benefits. 

First, it means that home health aides can be assigned to patients more effectively, ensuring that the neediest patients get the care they need. 

Second, home health aides can coordinate their visits with other professionals. Perhaps some patients won’t need as many visits after enrolling in community paramedic programs. 

All this depends on the situation, but the point is this: Mobile-integrated healthcare can make the home health aide force more effective. This means less load on the workers and more help for the patients. 

Final Thoughts: the Role of Integrated Health in Reducing the Home Health Aide Shortage

Mobile integrated healthcare cannot replace home health aides, but it can help reduce the burden of the shortage. MIH teams can give patients another option to call, and they can help people maintain strong overall health. 

Finally, the mobile integrated health model can be applied to home health aides, making them more effective and less burdened. 

Contact Julota to see how their documentation and data collection software can help mobile health teams and home health aides work together.