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Top Patient Experience Benefits for Home Healthcare

Home healthcare improves patient experience via quality of life, better palliative care, convenient care access, and detection of social determinants of health.

With an aging senior population, the US medical industry is increasingly focused on home healthcare as a means to not only cut costs but also improve the patient experience.

Medicare defines home healthcare as, “a wide range of health care services that can be given in your home for an illness or injury. Home health care is usually less expensive, more convenient, and just as effective as care you get in a hospital or skilled nursing facility (SNF).”

Patients might receive wound care, injectable drugs, patient education, and other monitoring of serious illness at home. Home health staff will check patient vitals, engage in medication management, support care coordination, and assess the suitability of living conditions, like nutrition and home safety.

Home healthcare is notable because of its cost-cutting benefits. It is less expensive to receive home-based care—including both rehabilitative care and palliative care—than it is to receive inpatient care or recover in a SNF.

But home healthcare also has important patient experience benefits, including:

  • Improving quality of life
  • Enhancing palliative and end-of-life care
  • Ensuring convenient care access
  • Detecting social determinants of health

As the US anticipates a growing senior population, it will be essential to consider the benefits of home healthcare. In doing so, the nation’s healthcare industry can both cut costs and improve the overall family and patient experience.

Improved quality of life

It takes no stretch of the imagination to consider why an individual would prefer to recover from illness or injury at home rather than in a hospital, rehabilitation center, or SNF. At home is where people feel most comfortable, and being able to convalesce there is a natural patient satisfier.

In a seminal 2005 study out of Johns Hopkins, hospital-at-home programs yielded better patient satisfaction levels than traditional hospital-based care. Patients were also apt to choose hospital-at-home when offered, the study authors added. In two of the three sites included in the study, 69 percent of patients offered access to hospital-at-home care chose it over acute hospital care.

What’s more, patients report better satisfaction and quality of life when using the mHealth technologies that support home healthcare. Virtual tools like remote patient monitoring devices and telehealth, which have cropped up to supplement the in-home visits patients receive from home health staff, yield a positive experience for patients.

Finally, home healthcare can be beneficial because it keeps patients exactly where they want to be—at home and with their loved ones. A 2019 study published in the American Journal of Accountable Care showed that Medicare beneficiaries receiving home healthcare were less likely to be readmitted into the hospital or have an emergency department visit.

Although the study did not translate those quality outcomes into quality of life or patient satisfaction scores, the researchers did go so far as to indicate that keeping patients out of the hospital and in their communities was a patient satisfier.

Better palliative, end-of-life care

Home healthcare has particular benefits for folks facing palliative and end-of-life care. Similar to those receiving treatment for serious illness or completing rehabilitation, home healthcare lets those nearing the end of life live in their homes close to their loved ones, which has an intangible impact on patient experience and quality of life.

In a 2021 literature review, researchers outlined data indicating numerous benefits to home healthcare at the end of life. Most notably, accessing home healthcare at the end of life increased the odds a patient would continue receiving that care when they die. Those receiving home healthcare at the end of life are also more likely to receive hospice services.

Better symptom management was also linked to home healthcare use, the literature indicated.

For caregivers, home healthcare can be instrumental. Family caregivers are often burdened with significant duties, which the researchers pointed out can be particularly stressful as their loved ones near the end of life. Home healthcare providers can ameliorate some of that burden, improving the quality of life for family caregivers.

More convenient care access

Home-based healthcare has a natural convenience factor. Receiving medical care inside the home cuts out many of the transportation barriers associated with healthcare access. And while most patients appreciate convenient care access, it’s particularly beneficial for sick or injured patients who need care.

In a 2019 study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, patients said they liked an app-based home health and rehabilitation program because they did not have to travel to a medical provider to receive care.

That convenient care access translated into better adherence to care management plans. Patients receiving home-based rehabilitative care were more likely to complete their physical therapy activities, which has good bearing on clinical outcomes down the road.

Again, this penchant for convenient care access extends to patient preference for the tools that support home-based care. Patients like telehealth access because it is more convenient than in-person medical care, studies have shown, which may beget preference for home-based care in certain situations, too.

Detection of social determinants of health

As noted in this article’s introduction, part of a home health staffer’s job is to check in on a patient’s home and living situation. Home healthcare providers might check and make sure there is enough nutritious food in the pantry and that the home is safe.

Said otherwise, home health staff are charged with detecting certain social determinants of health.

In 2020, researchers wrote in Patient Education and Counseling that clinical-year students were better able to assess and understand social determinants of health after a home-based health visit, as opposed to simply conducting an in-person clinic visit. Particularly, the researchers said home-based visits helped students connect the dots between social determinants of health and health outcomes.

This is important news, considering those who utilize home healthcare benefits through Medicare are at higher risk for social determinants of health, according to a resource from American University and Circumference Consulting LLC. But home healthcare professionals are still and underutilized resource in healthcare’s pursuit of understanding and addressing social determinants of health.

Integrating formal SDOH screenings into home healthcare may be a key strategy to strengthening this patient experience benefit.

That will be critical as the nation gears up for a growing senior population. Older adults have more medical and social needs. And by understanding and then strengthening home healthcare, the industry can use home healthcare to support better outcomes and a good patient experience.

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