3 Reasons Home Visits Critical During Care Transitions

Thursday, February 20th, 2014
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

As far back as 2010, home visits were a vital component of the Durham Community Health Network (DCHN), a primary care case management program for Medicaid recipients who live in Durham County, NC, explains Jessica Simo, program manager with Durham Community Health Network (DCHN) for the Duke Division of Community Health. Conducted in three-month increments, and designed initially to better address Medicaid recipients’ needs and link them to their medical homes, the face-to-face visits helped establish a level of trust between case manager and patient, eventually leading patients to better outcomes, including improving medication reconciliation.

Why are home visits so important? Number one, it is very challenging to observe problems that individual patients may have with adhering to their medication regimens if providers can’t see the medicines in the bottle in the patient’s home. You need to be available to count the medicines and ascertain definitively that they are not missing. Trying to do medication reconciliation over the phone is nowhere near as effective as being in a patient’s home.

Another reason home visits are more effective is that you can physically see what activities of daily living (ADL) or instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) deficits the patient may be experiencing in their natural environment. This is something you can’t directly observe within the confines of an exam room.

The engagement of family or other support persons is also important. Home visits are an excellent way to see somebody in their natural environment, find out who the support people are for the patient, have a comfortable discussion in their home about an individual plan of care and get the people who can assist with that on board.

For all of the previous reasons, home visits were critical to the DCHN pilot. It’s especially important in a medically complex patient population where there are frequent transitions, whether they be from the acute care setting, from any emergency department (ED) visit or back into the home from an assisted living facility.

Excerpted from 2013 Healthcare Benchmarks: Home Visits.

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