Home health care is keeping patients safe

Home can be the ideal place to recover from illness, injury or surgery. It’s where we feel most comfortable, safe and calm, all of which supports the healing process. But sometimes we need a little more help than a family member or private duty caregiver can provide. That’s where home health care comes in.

While some patients will find their recovery needs met in a skilled nursing facility or with ongoing outpatient care, home health care offers patients another option. Providence Home Health services include everything from physical therapy for rehabilitation to wound care, weight monitoring and chronic care management, and other general nursing needs to help you recover from an acute illness, surgery, accident or a change in your medical condition.

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Providence Home Health has put protocols in place to help ensure the safety of patients and caregivers in their home. To help us understand what steps we’re taking and why they’re essential, we spoke with Rebecca Kosko, RN, and executive director at St. Mary High Desert Home Health at Providence St. Joseph Health. Here’s what Rebecca said about the added protections we’re taking at this time:

How are home health care providers keeping patients safe during the COVID-19 pandemic?Our number one priority is patient and caregiver safety. The COVID-19 pandemic has required a different level of response and care in patients’ homes.

  • If one of our patients has tested positive for COVID-19 or is waiting for test results, we treat them as positive. This means we utilize all the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) from head to toe: gown, gloves, a protective mask and N95 respirator, as well as a face shield or other type of eye protection.
  • Even if a patient has not been diagnosed with the virus, we care for them using universal masking, which includes a face mask and a face shield to give added protection for us and our patients.
  • We also limit the number of providers who go out to our patients’ homes.
  • Additionally, all home health caregivers do a daily self-check of symptoms that is reviewed by leadership. We monitor for a fever and other COVID-19 signs and symptoms.

Are your patients required to wear a mask while receiving care?
No, only our caregivers are required to wear a mask along with a face shield. Patients are welcome to wear a mask during our visits if they choose.

Do you offer telehealth visits?
Yes, we have that ability. As one means of decreasing unnecessary in-person visits, a patient’s care team may develop a plan for virtual visits as needed.  We use a secure and user-friendly platform, and our patients tell us that they’ve been very happy with the results.

Are you able to maintain social distancing?
Social distancing can be challenging in a small environment, so we make an effort to stay in a separate room from others in the home, and to meet in a room with a closed door when possible. We keep a six-foot separation when a patient’s circumstances allow, but of course, when we're providing wound care, physical therapy or taking vital signs we must get closer than six feet. In those situations, we wear the appropriate PPE to keep ourselves and our patient safe. Patients may elect to wear a mask as well while we are within six feet providing care.  

If you or a loved one might benefit from our services or want to learn more about home health, read more of the Q&A with Rebecca below.

 

Who can benefit from home health care?

  • People who require extended recovery. Patients of all ages may need home health because of illness, injury or after hospitalization for surgery – for anything that requires a high level of care after they return home or go to a care facility. Home health might also be needed for long-term care, or in some cases for hospice care. We can provide home health care in a patient’s home, and we can also help a patient at an assisted living facility or adult family home if that’s where they live.
     
  • Homebound patients staying well. Medicare and Medicaid have recently introduced revised “homebound” status, such that patients who are at high-risk for COVID-19 or told to quarantine, and have a medical necessity, can be treated by Home Health and have it covered.
     
  • Another part of our role is to help patients stay connected to their health care team at the facility where they receive care. This may mean helping patients get refills for a prescription, or scheduling an appointment with their care team. We may also follow up after the patient has seen or talked to their physician to answer questions or provide additional care.

Who provides home health care?
Depending on a patient’s needs, they could receive care from a registered nurse, licensed vocational nurse, home health aide or a speech therapist. We also have physical therapists and occupational therapists who help patients who are recovering from a surgery or an accident. In cases where a patient needs equipment in their home, like a walker for example, our therapists along with our nurses work closely with the physician’s staff to ensure the patient has everything needed to move through and function safely in their home. Our social workers are very helpful when it comes to navigating social programs and helping patients get the resources they need, filling out forms or getting additional services.

How often does a patient receive home health care?
The number of visits is based on each patient’s individual needs. For example, a patient with an IV might need more frequent visits, while a wound-care patient needs three visits a week to have the wound dressed.  Upon admission to our care, each patient has an individualized care plan built in collaboration with the physician to best meet each patient’s needs.

How do you track your patients’ health?
While patients are receiving care from our team, they can trust that our team is documenting the care we provide in each patient’s electronic medical record, which can be viewed by our care team as well as the patient’s physician. In addition to our in-person visits, we utilize wellness calls for some patients to see how they’re doing. A lot of people are doing okay physically, but they’re having a hard time with social distancing. The wellness calls are a way to help meet some of our patients’ emotional needs, too. Our providers know it can be an uncomfortable time for their patients so they also provide support and education, helping them get through challenges, answering questions or clarifying information.

Does a patient need to ask for home health care?
A referral to our services must come from the patient’s physician, but a patient or their family member may talk with their primary care physician, surgeon, or hospital discharge planner about receiving home care; their caregiver will then contact us directly and we will coordinate care with the referring physician. We work with the hospital or facility in preparation for a patient’s hospital discharge, making sure there’s a caregiver for them at their home or care facility, and that the patient’s home is safe for them. From intake to scheduling to records, we have a wonderful team of caregivers working behind the scenes to coordinate all the services needed for the patient’s safe care.

Do you provide hospice care?
Yes, if a patient is receiving home health and they’re showing signs of decline, our hospice team is available to provide comfort care, manage pain or symptoms and offer emotional and spiritual support to the patient and their family. You don’t need to be homebound or qualify for home health to access hospice services. Our team is trained to consult with you, your family, or your physician at any time about hospice. Our number one priority is to keep our patients safe, and we also want to keep patients in their home – caring for them in a unique way that one can only experience in their own home.

Learn more about Providence Home Health

Find more information and speak to someone in your area about home health for you or a loved one.

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About the Author

The Providence News Team brings you the updates to keep you informed about what's happening across the organizational ecosystem. From partnerships to new doctor announcements, we are committed to keeping you informed.

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