Home health care is in many ways a fantastic service, especially for those Medicare beneficiaries who are essentially home bound due to frailty or illness.
But it’s often feels surprisingly hard to synergize with home health care.
The main problem, as I see it, is that home health care agencies have set themselves up to provide only administratively required communication with the ordering doc. (There are rules governing home health care, you know!)
Now, what I need is clinically relevant communication. As in, how is the patient clinically doing, so that you and I can coordinate our efforts together. This has apparently not been built into the home health care workflow.
And things get even more complicated when it’s a patient in assisted living, because then you have the facility nurse who should be kept in the loop as well.
Right now, I am trying to follow up on an elderly woman who lives in assisted living and has paid in-home aides (which are provided by a separate company).
I referred her to home health care a few weeks ago for help managing her skin. On one hand, she was starting to develop a pressure sore from sitting too much in the same position. And on the other hand, she had a fungal rash in her groin, under her incontinence brief.
I prescribed an antifungal cream to be used twice a day for two weeks.
Now it’s been three weeks, and the pharmacy is requesting a refill.
Well…what’s going on with that rash?
- The patient’s son, who visits weekly. He’s not a medical expert but he has the most at stake in ensuring that things are checked up on, plus I had him take a look at the rash when I visited.
- The home health agency RN
- The paid home aides; I strongly urged them to start keeping a log of the patient’s skin condition at my last visit. (Is that part of their job? Should it be? Who knows.)
- The facility RN, who is supposed to keep tabs on things when residents have active health issues, and who helped recruit home health care to the situation
- The pharmacy, to tell them why I’m not renewing the medication right at this moment.
So fax it is. Fortunately my EMR allows me to associate a given patient with a variety of other providers (and their fax numbers). It’s still a minor pain to fax a message to several different people, but it’s faster than calling them all.
BTW, I do occasionally call home health care agencies and ask to talk to the nurse. They are usually so surprised to hear from me…because most doctors never try to coordinate much.
What came first: the chicken or the egg?
What will come first: the communication framework or the desire to truly coordinate care?