Study Underlines the Need for Patient-Centered Care

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Former Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, Change Healthcare (Retired)
Patient-centered home care

Every one of us is unique, with individual backgrounds, careers, friends, family, homes and medical conditions. And as we age, we often rely on others to help us make medical decisions, trusting family and friends to help us.

But our uniqueness has its challenges. A recent study shows that nearly 40% of older adults delay or decline medical visits, tests and other interventions because of the burden of self-management. For me, the study underlines two important truths: that patient-centered care can ease some of the treatment burden for older adults and that home health is uniquely positioned to help.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied a representative sample of older adults in concert with the 2012 National Health and Aging Trends Study to measure:

  • approaches to managing health (self-manage, co-manage, delegate)
  • preferences for making decisions with doctors and family/close friends
  • experiences with care pertaining to treatment burden.

Nearly 70% of older adults self-manage their treatment, while 20% co-manage and the rest delegate. Most make decisions either by themselves or in conjunction with physicians (85%) or with family/close friends (96%).

The nearly 40% who delay or decline treatment is troubling, but a patient-centered approach with providers working together can ease the burden. Physicians and other care providers working in a vacuum often don’t consider what other providers a patient may be seeing at the same time. Medicines, tests and treatments may be in contradiction – especially if the patient has an acute condition or diminished capacities.

More older adults are outliving their support networks, leaving them alone to fend for their healthcare. Home health organizations can help fill in those gaps, working with providers on behalf of patients or directly with patients to help them understand their conditions, their medications and their treatment options.

Advocating for patients before they experience a hospitalization not only hits the aging-in-place core mission of home health, it can drive private pay revenue and increase self-referrals after hospitalization.

Helping patients is what we do, and that can include helping them navigate their care.

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