As never before, business models used by nursing homes and other congregate care settings are being challenged. Thanks to new advances in technology, expanded government payment models and shifting consumer preferences, new at-home models of care are surging. That’s according to an analysis Monday by Forbes columnist Howard Gleckman.

Gleckman examined models such as SNF-at-home and virtual retirement communities, both designed to serve as alternatives to larger, facility-based care settings. He noted that these initiatives, which have been available as potential substitutes to group settings for many years, still remain limited. But perhaps not for long.

“While some began before COVID-19, the pandemic has accelerated the trend,” Gleckman said.

With more than 70,000 residents of nursing homes and assisted living communities dying of COVID-19, and families unable to visit, many consumers are looking for alternatives to inpatient and residential care, he notes. So, too, are managed care plans that currently cover more than one-third of all Medicare beneficiaries. As a result, more hospital patients are being sent back home — rather than to skilled care facilities — for post-acute treatment, Gleckman noted.

Models of home care for those with fewer care needs — with more of a “virtual assisted living” feel — also have grown and include a variety of home-based assistance around care coordination, home safety assessments and access to social and wellness events. Although these options have been a harder sell to payers, Gleckman seems to think it’s only a matter of time before that changes as well. 

“All these concepts have one big thing in their favor: They hold the promise of moving more medical and long-term supports and services into homes — exactly where most people want them,” he said.