Costs are only part of the reason why researchers are now pointing to basic home care needs that can be provided on a temporary basis are better for patients’ chances for recovery. Particularly for patients who are covered by Medicare or Medicaid, food insecurity and “lack of access to nutritious food” are the reasons why the number of readmission rates go up among that population.
Food delivery service as part of in-home care covered by the same benefits have shown to reduce readmission rates as well as lower the costs to provide additional health services through hospitals and clinics. The Affordable Care Act for almost a decade now has required hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid to reduce costs for health services by reducing readmission rates.
In-home care does more than reduce readmission rates, but also leads to better post-operative results, recovery, and lower costs. Plus, patients are happier recovering at home as opposed to in a hospital room – no matter how nice it is.
Most Want to Stay at Home or Close to Home
Although elderly patients were the subjects in the NEJM study the results focus mostly on post-acute care and the rate of readmissions. For older adults, many who have special needs, many things in their own homes become health risks as they age, anything from falls down stairs to dementia-related injuries like fires and gas explosions. Yet one of the riskiest places for the elderly is the hospital where “hospital-acquired” infections can be deadly.
In-home care has proven to reduce the instances of readmission in those cases compared to the same acute-level post-injury care at a hospital. Health experts have known this for years but paying for that kind of in-home care through government benefits like Medicare and Medicaid has been a roadblock.
Effective last year, the Department of Health and Human Services implemented a model with billing codes that will allow hospitals to bundle acute-level home care as part of “transitional care” coverage through Medicare and Medicaid. The NEJM study used this payment model as a means to research health results from in-home care.
Researchers compared the results from over 200 patients recovering from an acute condition in the hospital (for about five days) versus nearly 300 who were provided post-acute care at home (for around three days). The results showed that after 30 days, patients who were treated in-home as opposed to a hospital “were significantly less likely” to be readmitted, have to go to the ER, or be moved to a nursing home.
Long-Term Hospital Costs will Result in More In-Home Care
Not all patients will be able to opt for in-home care. But the study shows that even patients that are so sick that they are admitted to the hospital can also be stabilized well enough to go home and receive in-home care. In-home caregivers will usually come by and check on the patient at least once a day if not more.
Some hospitals and in-home care providers are offering “telemedicine” where vitals can be monitored remotely. Caregivers are then left to focus on the daily essentials for patients – going to and from appointments, taking care of groceries and other errands, meal preparation, daily hygiene chores, and simple conversation and a caring touch.
This combination of care is much better for patients with the majority of study participants giving highly satisfactory feedback for in-home care versus in-patient care. In-home caregivers are rated much more highly by patients. Caregivers also find it more rewarding to provide in-home care services where their patients are most comfortable. Hospitals benefit from fewer emergency room cases and less crowded beds.
Many Elderly Adults Need Special Needs Care
Soon the largest generation (Baby Boomers) will all be counted among the elderly. The costs associated with hospital admissions as well as the risks that come with them are continuing to climb while demand for acute care services grows. In-home care options that can be covered for a fraction of the costs of hospitalization and readmissions through government and private insurance will increase the need for more in-home health care providers closer to where patients live.
We know at Hands from Heaven that the emotional element in special needs care is just as important as the medical support. As more elderly people become special needs adults, it is important to provide the kind of emotional and daily physical support that our loved ones need, especially after an acute illness or health crisis changes their quality of life. We are in-home care specialists.