Can Home Health Play a Role in Post-Surgical Care?

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Former Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, McKesson (Retired)

Can Home Health Play a Role in Post-Surgical Care?Just when many hospitals are successfully lowering their readmission rates—often with help from home care agencies—they may need to contend with another difficult quality measure. Fortunately, home health experts are again well-positioned to help.

A new study from The University of Michigan Medical School finds that almost one in five older adults visit the ED within a month of surgery for common ailments. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and was published in the September issue of Health Affairs.

The research team analyzed Medicare data from 2.4 million adults who had one of six common operations in a three-year period. Within 30 days of leaving the hospital, 4% visited the ED two or more times, and more than half of those were readmitted to the hospital directly from the ED.

The issues most commonly responsible for the ED visits were infections, cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, complications with the surgical site and abdominal or gastrointestinal problems. Researchers found a wide variation from hospital to hospital for the same condition (ED visits after colon surgery were one in four at some hospitals and one in 14 at others).

Interestingly, an April report in the Annals of Emergency Medicine suggested that hospitals consider ED visits as a return to an acute-care setting, even if they don’t result in a readmission. Similarly, the University of Michigan researchers suggested that hospitals could be graded based on their post-surgical ED visit rates, although further study would be needed.

Clearly, home health agencies have a role to play in post-surgical transitions, especially if they become a quality measure for hospitals. Now may be a good time for agency executives to talk with their hospital counterparts about the types of programs that could benefit post-surgical patients.

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