Watching our patients heal is a great feeling. We know that they’re heading in the right direction on their path to recovery.
Many patients can head down that path with a little care from their family and friends, a day or two of rest, and a follow-up with their physician. But other patients need extra care.
These patients may be prescribed post-acute care — services that patients receive when transitioning home from a hospital stay. It is often recommended when patients have been hospitalized for a serious medical condition, traumatic injury or complex issue.
When patients need post-acute care, they have several options. Some patients may need around-the-clock care, and they may check in to skilled nursing facilities or nursing homes.
Other patients can benefit from continuous follow-up care, but need less care, and need it less frequently, than they would get in a hospital or nursing home. And that’s when we might recommend home health care.
What is Home Health Care?
Home health care is post-acute care for patients who do not need to be in an inpatient program, such as a skilled nursing facility. Instead, they return to their own place of residence and receive services right from home.
What Services does Home Health Care Provide?
Each patient has different needs, and home health care providers will create an individualized treatment plan.
As part of their program, patients might:
- Receive physical, occupational or speech therapy
- Have wounds dressed and changed
- Learn about their new medical condition or medication
- Have help adjusting to everyday activities, such as transferring from the wheelchair to the bed, or getting into the shower
- Have their weight monitored
Home health care providers also look at the home environment and suggest changes that need to be made, such as installing a bar to hold on to or moving a rug.
Which Medical Conditions Require Home Health Care?
There is not a set list of conditions that make patients eligible for home health care, however a specific diagnosis plays a major role in the care patients receive.
For example, a patient newly diagnosed with diabetes may need to learn how to monitor their blood sugar or use an insulin pump. A patient with congestive heart failure might have their weight monitored closely to ensure that they are not retaining too much fluid.
Can Anyone Receive Home Health Care?
To be eligible for home health care, patients need to have some level of mobility. That means they can leave their home for health care appointments, church, family events, etc. But leaving their home does take considerable effort, so they do not leave very often.
Typically, home health care patients need help whenever they leave home, or need to use some sort of medical equipment or device when they’re out.
Who Provides Home Health Care?
At Stormont Vail Health, we work with community partners to bring home health care to our patients.
When patients are discharged from the hospital, discharge planners (i.e., social workers, case managers) provide them with a list of home health providers in their area. To ensure that our patients get the best care, we only work with agencies that have been rated highly by Medicare.
What’s the Difference Between Home Health Care and a Skilled Nursing Facility?
One of the biggest differences is that skilled nursing facilities are for patients who need more care, more often. Home health care is for patients who are a bit more independent and don’t need care quite as often.
There are a few additional key differences:
- Skilled nursing facilities have their own building where patients receive 24/7 care. Home health care does not involve another location — it’s provided right at patients’ homes.
- Patients can enter skilled nursing facilities only if they were inpatients at the hospital for at least 3 days.
- For home health care services, there is no minimum stay requirement.
- At a skilled nursing facility, patients get up to an hour and a half of physical, occupational or speech therapy each day. Home health patients receive these services a few times per week.
- Skilled nursing facilities provide meals for patients, while home health care does not.
- A stay at a skilled nursing facility typically lasts 20 to 120 days. The home health care program is usually 60 days.
Does Insurance Cover the Cost of Home Health Care?
Most people are covered under insurance, whether it’s Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance. There is no deductible or copay for Medicare or Medicaid patients. Private companies may or may not have a deductible or copay depending on the specific plan.
Even though patients are usually insured for home health care services, we recommend checking with your insurance company so you know what will be covered.
How do I Sign up for Home Health Care?
Patients can receive home health care services only if referred by their physicians or the hospital. At Stormont Vail, physicians at any of our clinics can make a referral.