Care at Home combines hospital-level care with benefits of home

December 1, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership, ,

Care at Home, the Initiative of the Year for U-M Health, offers patients hospital-level care combined with the opportunity to recover surrounded by the comforts of home.

The Care at Home program provides eligible patients with the option to receive nurse and physician visits, plus a wide array of tests, treatments and monitoring, in their homes. That means some hospitalized patients are able to return home sooner to receive care in familiar surroundings, closer to loved ones.

The program aims to support several elements of the new BASE priority structure, including greater access to care, reduced risk of hospital acquired conditions and improved patient experience. Offering Care at Home will achieve a number of important goals for U-M Health as the program grows, like increasing bed capacity in the hospitals for complex, high-acuity patients and reducing emergency room utilization and readmissions by delivering safe, high-quality care in patient’s homes.

A purposeful passion

“The university is known for outstanding patient care,” said Tracey Swider, R.N., who provides care to patients in the Care at Home and Michigan Visiting Nurse programs.

“With that distinguished reputation comes an abundance of patients, and that can mean long waits in the emergency room for an inpatient bed,” she said. “This program gives patients a choice to recover at home with the same medical care – as long as they meet the criteria to go home safely – and opens up beds on the main medical campus for more critically-ill patients.”

Patient satisfaction has always been Swider’s top priority. She sees the value every day of caring for patients in their homes.

“I’ve been blessed to work in many different areas of health care,” she said. “It is a very personal experience to care for someone in their home, on their turf. The home setting allows one-on-one care, with loved ones nearby. It’s a calmer experience for patients and, of course, an added bonus to be able to recover in your favorite recliner!”

Rhonda Lee, R.N., who works in the Remote Patient Monitoring and Care at Home programs, agreed.

“Home care has been my passion for years,” said Lee. “Being in the home environment improves recovery time and cuts down on the risk of hospital acquired infections.”

Lee said being able to recover at home is good for a patient’s psyche, too.

“Being in the hospital causes a little more stress,” she said, “not intentionally, but being in the hospital can make people think, ‘I must be really, really sick.’ The placebo effect of being at home improves recovery.”

A village of support

Launching and implementing the Care at Home program has required support from many teams and stakeholders across U-M Health to manage logistics, equipment and care plans. From inpatient and emergency department care teams identifying potential candidates for the program, to Care Management confirming patient eligibility and interest in the program and Pharmacy providing medications that weren’t previously available for home use, teams across the health system are thinking outside of the box for ways to support the program.

Critical to the success of Care at Home are the program’s partnerships with social work, occupational and physical therapy, speech-language pathology, MLabs, capacity management, inpatient, post-acute and ambulatory care teams, local paramedics programs, equipment technicians, delivery drivers and medical equipment suppliers.

Shared services like the Office of Patient Experience, Quality Department, Supply Chain Services, Health Information Technology & Services, contracting, strategy, finance, communications and others also play key roles in coordinating and supporting hospital-level care for patients in their homes.

Now, faculty and staff across U-M Health are being asked to think creatively about how they can support the Care at Home initiative. The goal for this fiscal year is to reach an average daily census of 10 patients by the end of June 2022, and the benefits of the program are clear.

“Giving patients a choice in their care is such a big satisfier,” said Swider. “Helping people feel like they have a little more control in a situation where they lack control is an automatic win.

“So far, patients have been very pleased with the program,” she said. “Our goal is to ease some of the stress for our patients, and also for the health system by creating greater access to care for patients who need to be in the hospital environment.”