RING RING RING
“Parentis Home Health, how can I help you?”
It’s a simple thing to pick up the phone and ask this question, right? It seems that way, although this statement is only a little peak of what happens behind that one phone call. The reality of the matter is that this phone call is crucial in the field of Home Health, because it is one of the first steps of connecting vital care to those who are in need. My name is Lauren Jose, and I am here to tell you about what this all means and how important it is to be on the other side of the incoming home health call.
Prior to this experience with Parentis Health, I had only heard of the concept of Home Health when one of my great and long-time friends, Julian, introduced me to the field. The concept of home health sounded simple enough: send out nurses and therapists to see patients directly at their homes. I thought, ‘WOW, does this mean I don’t have to go to the hospital anymore?’
Well, as I found out, not quite…
In this day and age, hospitals still fulfill an ongoing need in our communities when it comes to healthcare. Needs that have to be met through a hospital can range from needing surgeries and requiring specific medical equipment to many people who have different ailments and conditions that require hospitalization.
However, there are those who do not need hospital-specific care and have the ability to be sent home to be with their loved ones to a comfortable environment. Such examples of these types of patients include those who might need post-operative care (such as after a surgery), which may include wound care for the surgical area as well as different therapies, physical or occupational, to help with the body’s recovery. The amount of these people who require assistance is growing by the day, and this is where agencies like Parentis Health come in to fill that need.
This first step in the home health process is receiving the referral. The referral can start with a phone call, or other times it might start with a simple fax or even through word of mouth.
Coordinating care for a patient requires asking the right questions. Those questions are crucial, and the answers will guide you and your team to determine the best plan for the patient’s care. Additionally, they will also allow you to pinpoint where the patient is…no literally, WHERE they are.
From that point, there are other key questions to consider:
- Who is the patient?
- What kind will the patient be needing?
- What kind of insurance does the patient have? Are we authorized/allowed to see the patient?
- When and what time will this patient be leaving the hospital and getting home?
- Does the patient have family members that need to be contacted directly?
The above list is a great start to assembling the entire picture with details of the patient’s case.
In Home Health, there are never TOO many questions. The more questions, the better! This information aids in coordinating details such as who is going to be seeing the patient, how soon they will be seen and the best way that care can should be given.
As much as my nurses want to serve and take care of a patient, it is impossible to do that without being physically in contact with them. That is where the office comes in; we are tasked to reach back out to whomever had sent the referral to confirm that we are able to service the patient.
After we have connected with the referral source, we will go on to find out if the patient’s hospitalization status. Is her or she still in the hospital or not, and if not, what city and address they will be staying at.
The second step is to make sure that we have all the information needed from the ordering doctor. Documents and notes that would be needed by us are the discharge notes, the most updated and recent progress notes from the Doctor’s office, as well as the entire medical history of the patient.
A patient always needs an order from their doctor which states why we are being assigned to see the patient.
An example of this could be:
Patient is fresh out of a knee surgery and would need wound care as well as physical therapy to help walk again.
In this case, a RN (Registered Nurse), would be tasked with seeing the patient for the initial evaluation, or Start of Care (SOC) while the PT (Physical Therapist), would be tasked with evaluating the patient soon after the initial evaluation. It is important to have the initial evaluations conducted early in the patient’s episode so that the nurse and therapists can coordinate their care plans and stay on the same page to ensure the best care possible.
The third step is to find out the patient’s insurance plan, coverage, etc. Obtaining this important information will enable us to understand what kind of services can be covered and what the patient is able to receive.
Depending on the insurance, the back office would need an approval or authorization to see the patient. An authorization communicates to us that certain visits are covered and also details to us how many aren’t covered as well. The authorization also acts a guarantee that the visits will be funded by the insurance company, so that the patient knows that he/she will not have to pay out of pocket.
This three-step process seems to be fairly simple, and a fortunate number of times, it is! However, there are also numerous occasions where only bits and pieces of information will be provided to us. Due to that, it will often be up to the back office to hunt down the important missing information that is needed.
There are so many calls, faxes and emails that can be sent out even regarding just ONE patient!
What is even crazier is that patients could be going home from the hospital one day, and then the very next day could find themselves making a trip back to the hospital.
Therefore, these updates demand constant following up and require the continuous tracking of patients. The kind of environment home health creates, keeps everyone involved, vigilant, and ready to spring into action, all in the blink of an eye.
Being a member in home health requires that you must be aware of yourself and what is going on around you at ALL times, including patients, nurses, families, referral sources, and anyone who needs to be involved one way or the other (and trust me, there is always something happening ALL the time).
There’s no time or allowance to slack off in this arena. Working in home health requires keeping up pace with updates from nurses, both RNs and LVNs, physical therapists, occupational and speech therapists, their aides, as well as with the patients and the patient’s loved ones themselves.
With having an ever-growing census of patients, one might ask, “How do you do it?”
The simple answer is…you just DO.
I can go on and on about the technicalities and steps of how to make sure a patient is taken care of but, being in communication with your team is even more important than that.
Helping and serving those in need requires constant communication and teamwork, and that is where the Home Health team at Parentis shines.
Ask any of our patients, ask any of our staff members. Anyone can tell you about our continuity of care and why it is possible. It is possible because of our COMMUNICATION. That’s why in home health we push it so much! Communication, communication, communication. A great team, and excellent coordination of information is how we keep our health care professionals able to provide the best care for our patients.