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How Home Health is Saving the U.S. Health Care System

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Published:  December 9, 2015

The U.S. health care system is not only the most expensive among Western nations but also the least effective. Despite spending $8,508 per capita on health care and enacting sweeping reform, we are still “last or near last on dimensions of access, efficiency, and equity,” the Commonwealth Fund says. 

Most Americans are well aware that our health system has its shortcomings. While we could go on for days citing hundred-page reports on the system’s flaws, we’d like to instead point to a solution that has been quietly keeping our health care afloat: home health.

“Sicker, Quicker, and More Costly”

It’s no secret that hospitalization is costly for patients and for the entire health care system. Likewise, that cost is fragmented and varies significantly from hospital to hospital. With Medicare accounting for roughly one quarter of national health spending (total benefit payments of $597 billion in 2014), the elderly are a pivotal population. 

Today, more than ever, hospitals are receiving elderly patients “sicker and quicker.” These patients require a higher level of care, thus making them more costly—for everyone. The question, albeit blunt, becomes: “How do we bring down the cost?” 

How can we provide the elderly with a high level of acute care in a comfortable setting for $50 per day, rather than hundreds of dollars per day, and achieve higher outcomes? 

The Answer: Care for Patients in Their Homes

As providers face the challenge of adapting to new models of care, the value of in-home care becomes clear. A 2010 study by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice found that home health care companies in the U.S. collectively made more than 428 million patient visits each year. That number continues to rise as hospitals try to move (and keep) patients out of their facilities. 

In a hospital setting, it’s virtually impossible to truly know a patient. It’s a hectic environment for nurses and an intimidating one for patients. By providing care in the home, we can learn more about a patient’s overall lifestyle—from the types of medications they have been taking on their own to their general preferences for comfort. Home health providers are essentially the “eyes and ears” for providers, helping them to better understand the socioeconomic challenges each patient brings. 

Why Home Health Works

Home health has withstood the health care crisis because it is the answer to our overspending, underdelivering, and the perpetual care vs. cost conundrum. Without home health, the only two options for sick patients would be to keep them in the hospital and incur exorbitant costs, or discharge them and provide no care at all until they are eventually readmitted. 

Put simply, home health provides the right care, at the right time, in the right setting—a perfect balance that is all but impossible to achieve in a facility.

What You Know: Drawbacks of Keeping Patients in the Hospital

Providers know the drawbacks of longer hospital stays, but let’s list them for reference.

  • High cost
  • The potential for excessive care
  • Not a living environment
  • Patients are reserved and might not tell you everything you need to know
  • Patients simply don’t want to be there; they want to be at home
  • Added stress for families
  • The unavoidable undertone: “We want to get you out of here.” 

Benefits of Caring for Patients in Their Homes

Home health eliminates the pitfalls of hospitalization, while also bringing several key benefits: 

  • You get to see “the whole picture” of a patient’s lifestyle
  • They’re comfortable
  • Better access to family and friend support (simple things such as familiar parking can go a long way toward easing the situation)
  • Better access to community support (churches, favorite stores, etc.)
  • A teachable, trainable support structure within the home
  • Increased integration with health technology and records compared to decades ago
  • Immediate access to physicians, who are likely in the same neighborhood or town 

Most Common Patients in Home Health

This is by no means a blanket statement or call to send all patients to home health. However, if your patient falls in one of these four categories, home health should be considered. 

  • Heart failure
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Diabetes
  • Post-surgical rehabilitation
  • Behavioral health issues

The Future of Home Health

Home health is the high-value, low-cost alternative to the hindrances of the current health care environment. When you allow patients to receive the care they need in the comfort of their own homes, everyone wins. In fact, studies show that patients recover faster in home health than in a hospital. 

It all comes down to finding the most appropriate level of care for each patient—and Mission Healthcare is here to help. Our caregivers are among the best in the industry, and our continuum of care enables you to place patients in home health, home care, or hospice, based on their unique needs. To learn more about our home health services in particular, click here.