Home Health Care Presents New Challenges

January 26th, 2012 2 Min read Home Health Care Presents New Challenges Blog
This is a guest blog post from Morris Jensby, VP of Risk Management, CHG Healthcare Services Delivering health services to patients with sub-acute needs within their home setting can clearly be beneficial to patients. They don't need to brave the elements to secure routine medical care, elderly or challenged patients don't have to leave their familiar surroundings, and healthcare can be delivered in a more personal manner. Another, and much publicized, benefit is that basic medical services can be delivered without the added costs associated with brick-and-mortar clinics and emergency rooms. So, where is the risk? For decades we have trained medical personnel to deliver medical services in sterile, highly regulated, and continuously monitored environments. Through the advancing demands of home health care, we are now requiring many of those same services to be delivered in patient homes. Often, those same homes contain the hazards and conditions which may lead to or compounded the health concerns for which a patient is being treated. This was the case in a story that made headlines in Minnesota, where the Star Tribune reported, "Agency, nurse are faulted in Minneapolis man's death." The health care professional has now become responsible for assessing and acting upon the conditions of the entire patient environment in addition to delivering the specific medical procedures which prompted their visit. We can be pretty certain where the liability will rest if they fail. Does the duty to change the living conditions of a given patient rise to the level of professional negligence? I propose that healthcare systems and healthcare delivery services must step up to address this question before jury decisions and damage awards determine it for us.Physiotherapist helping senior woman with walker in retirement home We would all like to reassure ourselves that this was a unique event with rare and aggravated circumstances. However, we can learn important lessons from events such as this and improve health care to patients in the process. Staffing companies and healthcare facilities should partner to establish protocols that will make healthcare delivery in private homes a successful proposition. We must give attention to assessing and credentialing healthcare providers who will be dispatched to deliver these services, making sure that they understand both the breadth of their responsibilities and the unique differences between services delivered in a public facility and a private residence. This growing patient population can be served appropriately and effectively but the entire healthcare services industry must step up to the challenge with eyes wide open to prevent a correction driven by adverse outcomes and litigation that could reach epic proportions.