Home health indicators: Signs a patient could benefit from home health care

Caring for communities

Home health care is an important tool in a patient’s recovery journey, but some physicians are not aware of all home health indicators or how home health can benefit patients.

Many studies, including one from the American Journal of Accountable Care, have found that home health care is a more beneficial alternative to receiving care in the hospital. Whenever Medicare beneficiaries utilize home health care, they are less likely to rely on the hospital for care, lowering rates of rehospitalizations, improving outcomes and lowering costs of care for both the patient and health care system.

But in order to refer patients to home health care, you must first know the identifying factors that mean a patient could benefit from home health.

What is home health?

Home health gives patients the opportunity to receive the care they need in their most comfortable environments – their homes. The goal of these services is to provide care on an intermittent basis to help patients maintain independence and improve quality of life.

Home health is designed to meet patients where they are. Whether it’s recovering from a surgery or recent hospital stay, or managing a disease or injury, it can provide the necessary care to help patients achieve the best outcomes.

Home health skilled services include:

  • Skilled nursing
  • Occupational therapy
  • Medical social work
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Home health aides

Homebound status as a sign your patient could benefit from home health care

Many physicians hold the belief that home health care is only for post-surgical rehabilitation. In fact, home health care covers a variety of clinical events and conditions, as long as the qualifying criteria is met.

To qualify for home health coverage through Medicare, a patient must be certified as homebound by their physician. To certify a patient as homebound, it must take them a considerable and taxing effort to leave home in addition to one of the following:

  • Needs the aide of supportive devices such as crutches, canes, wheelchairs or walkers
  • Needs the assistance of another person in order to safely leave their home
  • Leaving their home is not medically recommended by their physician

There are certain events or changes in clinical conditions that may support homebound status. If you have a patient in your care with any of the following concerns, they could be considered homebound:

  • Painful mobility requiring assistance or the use of a device
  • A medical contraindication for leaving the home such as weight bearing restrictions, infection precautions or bed rest
  • Risk of falling or injury
  • Significant shortness of breath with activity
  • Significant weakness or fatigue with activity
  • Fear, anxiety or worry upon leaving the home
  • Significant impairment with vision, hearing, concentration, memory, safety or judgment
  • Dependence on special transportation, assistive devices or human assistance for clinical reasons

If a patient meets the criteria for being homebound and there is a skilled need identified, they can qualify for home health care coverage through Medicare and begin receiving home health services.

In addition to homebound status, there are other home health indicators that might be a sign a patient could benefit from home health care.

A female doctor sits with a female patient on a metal bench and discusses health care options and home health indicators

Home health indicators

As mentioned, home health care is more than just post-surgical rehabilitation. Many different recent events or changes in clinical condition may support the need for home health services.

Ask yourself, do you have a homebound patient with any of the following home health indicators? If so, it may be time to for them to begin home health care.

  • Exacerbation or onset of a new medical condition
  • The need for post-surgical care or rehabilitation
  • Medication changes requiring education and/or monitoring
  • Chronic or acute pain impacting daily function
  • Chronic or acute ulcers, wounds or lesions
  • Limited functional activities of daily living
    • This includes difficulty with managing medications, meal planning, communicating, bathing, dressing, walking, standing or sitting
  • Risk of injury or harm
  • Knowledge deficits
  • Impaired body functions or structures
    • This includes impairments in breathing, circulation, activity tolerance, urination, memory, vision, strength, balance, cognition, edema or swallowing

Benefits of early intervention in home health care

There are many benefits to proactively utilizing home health care services. Whenever patients can be seen in the comfort of wherever they call home, they experience an increased quality of life, better outcomes and fewer hospitalizations.

Increased quality of life

A main focus in home health care is helping patients regain their mobility and independence without ever having to travel to a rehabilitation facility. When patients are homebound, it can be hard to live their lives at the same level as before their illness or condition.

Home health helps patients become more mobile through use of physical and occupational therapy. Once a patient is able to be less reliant on their caregiver, their levels of independence increase. Then, they’re able to do things for themselves again and enjoy activities as they did before their illness or condition.

Better outcomes and recovery

Home health care prioritizes patient and caregiver education and disease self-management. Whenever a patient is able to learn information specific to their condition, it empowers them and their caregivers to self-manage their treatment and reach their health care goals.

Additionally, home health providers like Enhabit Home Health & Hospice offer specialized care and personalized treatment for each patient, allowing for individual care plans and goals suited to their specific needs.

Fewer hospitalizations

When home health care is utilized, there are less trips to the hospital and more of a focus on prevention. Instead of visiting the hospital whenever a certain event or change in clinical condition occurs, a patient can rely on their home health care team to get the information and treatment they need.

At Enhabit, our referral process is as streamlined as possible, allowing physicians to refer patients quickly and easily, providing them with a smooth transition of care. If you have a patient in your care that is showing signs they could benefit from home health care, learn how to refer them to Enhabit today.

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