Home health and hospice heavyweight Amedisys Inc. (Nasdaq: AMED) sees opportunity in serving long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 crisis — and potentially well into a post-pandemic world.
The Baton Rouge, La.-based home health, hospice, and personal care services provider this week announced a partnership with Option Care Health Inc. (Nasdaq: OPCH), the largest independent home- and alternate-site infusion services provider in the U.S.
The goal of the deal: to enter into long-term care facilities, including skilled nursing and assisted living properties, in select locations and deliver COVID-19 infusion therapy to vulnerable populations. Broadly, infusion therapy is the delivery of medication intravenously, often through a special infusion pump.
Strategically, the newly announced collaboration will help meet the immediate needs of the country’s seniors during the public health emergency. It will also, however, set Amedisys up for more infusion administration to certain patients in alternate sites in the future.
“They had a need that we felt like we could fill, which was providing personnel that could assist in actually administering the infusion,” Dr. Amy Moss, Amedisys senior vice president of clinical for hospice, said. “And we just took it from there.”
Amedisys currently delivers in-home care services across 500 care centers in 39 states and Washington, D.C.
The company was partly able to make its new partnership with Option Care possible thanks to the work of Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership initiated by the U.S. government.
In December, the National Home Infusion Association (NHIA) announced it had launched a pilot program with Operation Warp Speed and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to expand access to the drug bamlanivimab for some COVID-19-positive patients residing in long-term care facilities.
Option Care Health — a member of NHIA — agreed to participate in the program. It then tabbed Amedisys as a partner.
“Rightfully so, much of the focus during the pandemic has been on acute care and the burden that system is feeling,” Moss said. “But we all know that there are millions of people who are dealing with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID at home, or wherever they call home. And a large portion of those individuals are seniors that live in communal-living centers.”
Long-term care facilities have been hit especially hard by COVID-19 in the U.S.: Well over 100,000 staff and residents have died since the beginning of the pandemic due to the virus, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
“We are proud to collaborate with Amedisys, a leader in home health and hospice services, along with NHIA and leaders of Operation Warp Speed, to expand access to vital therapies for one of the most vulnerable populations,” John Rademacher, CEO of Option Care Health, said in a statement. “Combining the extraordinary capabilities of two industry leaders to solve a critical health care challenge is truly humbling.”
Staffing has long been a major issue across long-term care, bu. That’s why Amedisys staffing resources are valuable to programs like the one Option Care Health is launching along with the NHIA.
The program will initially be piloted in Indianapolis and Valparaiso, Ind., with potential to scale the program to other markets if successful. Moss suggested Amedisys is open to that, especially if Option Care Health is also willing.
“This is one of the most novel arrangements that I’ve seen in my career,” she said.
In initial trials, bamlanivimab has proven to help manage COVID-19 symptoms in positive patients; the federal government began covering the drug under Medicare for nursing home residents in November.
Home-based care organizations such as Amedisys have been aiming to reduce hospital visits, particularly during the pandemic. Helping to administer bamlanivimab seemed like a logical task for Amedisys to carry out.
“What they were hoping to demonstrate — and it does appear to be coming to fruition in the clinical trials — is that the use of this infusion reduces the need for hospitalizations or emergency room visits for these patients,” Moss said. “And that’s huge.”
Amedisys will oversee the care coordination through its hospice division and overall clinical team. On its end, Option Care Health will leverage its pharmacy network to distribute bamlanivimab.
The partnership will help seniors get treatment they may not have otherwise been able to get, all while staying at the place they live. It also reflects the power of these sort of partnerships, Moss said.
More broadly, the partnership could set the stage for more home- and community-based involvement for Amedisys in the infusion arena — or elsewhere — even after COVID-19 subsides in the U.S.
“It very much aligns with our overall mission at Amedisys, which is expanding the capacity to deliver full service care in the home or wherever the patient may be,” Moss said. “It’s very much in line with our mission prior to COVID, which was looking for novel ways to do that. This is something that I would anticipate continuing after the public health emergency is over. And it may not necessarily just be limited to infusion opportunities. I think it really sparked some creativity about how else we could collaborate with other providers out there.”
The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) for neutralizing antibody therapies to treat mild to moderate COVID-19.
“We have experience from being on the front lines and caring for more than 12,500 COVID-19-positive patients,” Amedisys president and CEO Paul Kusserow said in a statement. “We know how important innovative solutions are for caring for those who need our services the most, and this is exactly the type of partnerships in which Amedisys wants to be involved to help our country make it through this pandemic.”