“Quality of life” is a term used frequently when discussing someone’s vision of their current and future state. The CDC acknowledges it is challenging to measure the term “quality of life” as this can be defined differently by nearly every individual, group, organization, and academic discipline. Health is one of the key dimensions of overall QOL, along with jobs, housing, schools, and neighborhoods, culture, values, and spirituality.
Specific to the topic of health, the phrase health-related quality of life (HRQOL) encompasses those aspects of overall quality of life that can be clearly shown to affect physical and/or mental health. An individual’s HRQOL includes physical and mental health perceptions (e.g., energy level, mood) and how these are connected to health risks and conditions, functional status, social support, and socioeconomic status. It goes beyond direct measures of population health, life expectancy, and causes of death, and focuses on the impact health status has on overall QOL. Well-being is related to HRQOL as it values the positive aspects of a person’s life (e.g., positive emotions and life satisfaction.)
Clinicians and public health officials have used HRQOL and well-being to measure the effects of chronic illness, treatments, and short- and long-term disabilities. Improving these aspects are critical to enhancing one’s current, day-to-day condition and future, overall situation. Post-acute care organizations are realizing how a virtual care communication platform can benefit both a patient’s HRQOL and overall QOL. Virtual visits and scheduled email/text/SMS messaging are dynamic tools to help at-home patients – especially those suffering with chronic conditions – to remain engaged with their home health providers.
Home health staff can use the platform to communicate with their patients and provide compassionate care – regardless of the geographical distance between the home health professional and the patient’s home or care facility. Home health agencies can engage patients on a more convenient and more frequent basis by facilitating video-based appointments and check-ins. Emails, secure messages, and texts can also be used in between virtual visits to ensure continuity of communications and care. Patients value the ongoing support provided in the cadence of touchpoints. Family caregivers value the ability to receive real-time guidance and support from home health staff which deepens their confidence in being able to provide their loved one with optimal care. And, both patients and caregivers appreciate the convenience of being able to immediately access their home health clinicians for critical health-related needs and/or quick questions regarding more routine health care matters. A virtual care communication platform’s benefits include:
- Improved patient education access to information about one’s condition and treatment plan.
- Enhanced social connectedness between the patient and home health provider as well as amongst the patient, a family caregiver, and the home health provider.
- Increased patient and family participation in short-term and longer-term care planning.
- Better ability of patients and family caregivers to convey the patient’s day-to-day health-related situation outside of the traditional home visit.
- Greater satisfaction for all (patients, family, and home health clinician) with the timing, frequency, and method of care delivered.
A balance of in-person and virtual visits, along with an ongoing series of communications, helps these patients (and their family caregivers) feel less socially isolated, improving their HRQOL while reducing the risk of unnecessary and costly readmissions.