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Home Health Care, Done Right

by Stephen Friedhoff, M.D.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to join the Help at Home team. As a physician who has experienced healthcare through a variety of lenses (practicing physician, educator, health plan executive, family member and patient), I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about our model of care.

When home healthcare is done right, the better option for an individual also happens to be the most affordable. Individuals get what they want: to stay in their homes, even when they have health challenges. But the healthcare system benefits, too, because caring for someone at home is less expensive – and often safer – than caring for them in a hospital or nursing home.

I became an advocate for home health in the early days of my medical training. I realized a doctor may spend 10 or 15 minutes with a patient a few times a year, but a professional in-home caregiver sees that person almost daily. Even someone who sees a doctor (or doctors) a few times a year may spend only a total of an hour or two with them. Yet, an individual receiving home care spends an average of 884 hours with their caregiver every year!

Not surprisingly, a big opportunity for home care and the broader health care system is to leverage that familiarity between paid caregiver and client and use it in new ways. Caregivers can’t examine, diagnose or treat, but they certainly can observe.

A caregiver sees when a client is lonely or sad, for example, or when a chronic condition begins to make them feel poorly. Good health depends on noticing those things early and correcting them quickly.

That’s why my team is testing new screening and reporting tools and a new, enhanced model for home care. We are asking our caregivers to regularly collect specific kinds of health and behavioral information and answer questions on behalf of their client. We are also empowering them with tools to quickly connect clients to the right resource as soon as a problem begins to develop and before an adverse event is likely to occur. By doing so, we believe we can reduce ER visits, hospital admissions and readmissions – and improve health and quality of life – enabling our clients to have more great days at home.

You can see why I’m excited to be here, leading this work. Doctors spend a lot of years in medical training with one goal in mind: improving lives and health. That’s what our 30,000 caregivers and I are doing every day.

Caregiver using a Hoyer Lift