Mass General Brigham doubles down on hospital-at-home program

The organization named Heather O’Sullivan as the system’s first president of home-based care. A key leader says “the future of healthcare is in the home.”

Mass General Brigham has been ahead of most healthcare organizations in providing acute care at home, and now the organization is taking another step forward.

The system has hired Heather O’Sullivan to be Mass General Brigham’s first president of home-based care. O’Sullivan, an experienced leader in home-based care, will be responsible for overseeing the expansion of the organization’s hospital-at-home program.

Mass General Brigham launched its home-based acute care program in 2016. Since then, the health system has provided care for more than 1,800 patients at home.

Gregg S. Meyer, president of Mass General Brigham’s community division and executive vice president of value-based care, said O’Sullivan is joining “at a critical juncture for Mass General Brigham and the future of health care delivery.”

“Due to the COVID pandemic and the evolving needs of our community, we have seen an accelerated demand for home hospital offerings,” Meyer said in a statement. “We are dedicated to placing patients at the center of everything we do, no matter where they are, and the future of healthcare is in the home.”

Nationwide, 242 hospitals - and 107 systems - are providing acute care at home as of June 28, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Home hospital programs are now operating in 36 states. More systems are looking into home-based programs, as more than 50 hospitals have been given federal approval for acute care at home since last November.

With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, CMS offered waivers allowing more hospitals to provide acute care at home, enabling health systems to get reimbursed for home-based programs. Before the pandemic, few health systems were offering hospital-level care at home.

Supporters of home hospital programs say they have proven to be effective in delivering high-quality patient care at a lower cost. Patients also naturally feel more comfortable recovering in their own homes than in a hospital, advocates say.

David M. Levine, medical director of strategy and innovation for Brigham & Women’s Home Hospital, told Chief Healthcare Executive last November that the home-based program has reduced readmissions and improved patient satisfaction.

“This model is exceptionally powerful for getting patients the care where they want it,” he said.

Brigham, like other health systems, uses technology to monitor patients in their home hospital program. Patients wear patches on their skin that transmit their heart rate and other vital signs. Doctors view the readings on their smartphones, Levine said.

Home-based care isn’t just about managing care remotely. Under federal regulations, health systems offering home-based hospital programs must send clinicians to visit patients in person twice a day.

Patients are screened carefully to be sure they can do well at home, Levine said last fall.

While focusing on its home hospital program, Mass General Brigham is also undertaking a nearly $2 billion expansion of its facilities, a plan that was scaled back after pushback from Massachusetts state officials.

O’Sullivan previously served as executive vice president and chief clinical innovation officer at Kindred at Home, America’s largest home health and hospice provider.

Humana completed the acquisition of Kindred at Home last year. The insurer, which had owned 40% of the company, bought the rest from TPG Capital in a $5.7 billion deal. Since then, Humana has sold the majority of Kindred’s hospice and personal care business to Clayton, Dubilier & Rice in a $2.8 billion deal. Humana has focused on expanding its footprint in home-based care.

Last month, Appalachian Regional Healthcare, a nonprofit system operating hospitals in Kentucky and West Virginia, said it was launching a hospital-at-home program, saying it would improve care in rural areas.