Throughout the many stages of the care continuum, virtual care can improve patient expectations pre-discharge by preparing them for future changes. This includes discussing the timeliness and modality of how information is transferred between the patient and caregivers, as well as setting realistic expectations prior to changing the care setting for the patient. A recent study published in The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine aimed to evaluate the quality of communication after hospital discharge and to assess perceptions of patient preparedness to receive home health care post-discharge. The study highlighted key findings related to the gap in expectations vs. reality:
- 96% of patients expressed a preference to receive discharge information either before or at the time of discharge. To note, 76% reported receiving information within this timeframe.
- 52% of patients indicated that discharging hospitals’ preparation for receiving home healthcare was inadequate. Respondents noted that their expectations for post-discharge care was beyond the scope of skilled home healthcare occasionally (38%), often (36%), or almost always (14%).
- 62% of patients expected extended hours of caregiving such as additional hours, daily care, overnight care, etc.
- Over half of patients felt that expectations regarding additional tests, pending studies, safety issues, contact isolation, and which clinician to contact, were insufficient in their experience. Nearly half (48%) expressed concern with medications.
The communication gap results in hospital and patient misconceptions about the role and responsibilities of a home health clinician. As one respondent stated “[Patients/caregivers expect] that we will be there every day for hours at a time and we can stay overnight, seems like some patients and their families are totally clueless what home health provides and it seems like hospital workers and doctors are also clueless what we provide.”
By utilizing a virtual care communication platform, home health agencies and hospitals alike can align on the next steps in patient care, post-discharge, and engage the patient earlier in the process as to the expectations related to home health:
- Hospitals and agencies can use a virtual care platform to collaborate and agree on next steps for the patient before the patient is discharged from the care facility.
- With a virtual care platform, home health agencies can introduce the staff member responsible for handling the care at home for the patient, prior to hospital discharge.
- Traditional in-home visits can be augmented with virtual visits, increasing home health staff productivity and enabling staff to see more patients more frequently. Home health staff can see three patients virtually in the time it typically takes to drive to/from and see one patient for an in-home visit.
- With the platform, a home health agency’s administrator can schedule a series of patient-directed communications promoting medication adherence.
- A virtual care platform also improves patient access to their home health staff on-demand for a virtual visit or online chat.
- Virtual care communication platforms can help bridge the gap of communication between agencies and their referral sources, aiding in the transfer of information between care providers.
By engaging key stakeholders before and during the episodes of post-acute care, agencies can resolve communication gaps in real-time while amplifying the role of home health care in helping patients transition from inpatient to outpatient.