Home Health Can Help Ground Frequent Fliers

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Former Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, McKesson (Retired)
Emergency room nurses serving an ER patient

How are the health systems in your service areas dealing with so-called frequent fliers – those who visit the emergency room four or more times a year? And, just as important, how can home health help?

These people often are considered a drain on resources away from those who truly need emergent care. However, a new study in Emergency Medicine Journal shows that these people are at increased risk for outpatient visits, admissions, admissions per visit and even death.

Many ER super users have mental health or addiction issues, are homeless or suffer from chronic conditions that require careful monitoring to avoid further complications. The study was comprised of a review of 31 observational studies that compared super users against other users in terms of mortality and health outcomes.

Rather than “treat and street” these patients (only to have them soon return), the authors suggest that frequent fliers receive intense, coordinated care designed to break the cycle of frequent ER use. That requires a high level of coordination, an area where home health could be the answer.

Your staff are on the front lines every day, meeting patients where they live. With frequent monitoring, education about their conditions and adequate support from family or the community, many of these people can break the cycle of frequent ER use.

It’s a classic win-win: The health system can use its resources more wisely on true emergencies and avoid unnecessary readmissions, while home health can leverage existing service lines or create a new one to serve this population. Many organizations already have care transitions or care management programs that could serve as the basis for a new effort targeted at super users.

Innovations are occurring in our industry every day. Those innovations include new services in response to changing care needs, as well as enhancements in existing service lines. Home health software is evolving, too, helping you and your staff become more productive.

But you always need to be listening, to find out what your peers might be doing differently from you and to discover from your referral network how you can better assist them.

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