Home Visits Offer ‘Eyes on the Ground’ for High-Risk Populations

Thursday, October 31st, 2013
This post was written by Patricia Donovan

Despite the explosion of mobile and telehealth technologies, there’s no substitute for person-to-person contact — at least when it comes to populations at high risk of hospital admission or readmission.

That was the finding of our inaugural Home Visits study, which captured the use of health-related home visits by 155 healthcare organizations. Almost 80 percent of respondents to the August 2013 survey visit some percentage of their patients or health plan members in their homes, a practice that is dramatically increasing levels of medication adherence and patient satisfaction.

Charged with keeping costly readmissions penalties at bay, healthcare organizations are deploying healthcare workers to the homes of risk-stratified patients and health plan members in greater numbers. While the primary purpose of the visit may vary by sector (payors’ case managers performing a home assessment versus hospitals clarifying discharge instructions), the end result is keeping patients safer and healthier in their homes and curbing costlier utilizers.

The home visit may also be the time to initiate the serious conversations — the ones that address end-of-life care and support, so that individuals have more control over the healthcare services they utilize during this final stage of the care continuum. These sensitive discussions can take place in the more relaxed setting of the patient’s home rather than at the hospital bedside.

What seems likely is that home visits will continue to proliferate, and supporting the home health workers, case managers, physicians and even pharmacists who conduct these visits will be portable technologies like a common electronic health record that all care providers can access, and telehealth tools such as interactive voice response (IVR) or disease-specific devices to transmit key health metrics (A1Cs or weight, for example) to the patient’s medical home.

Of course, the data tracked by these technologies must be shared among all providers so that coordination of care is seamless and duplication of care is avoided.

Scheduled telephonic follow-up should supplement more sophisticated technologies, survey respondents emphasized.

Download an executive summary of results from the 2013 Home Visits survey.

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