Particularly as they get older, many people find home health care to be more convenient and less costly than traditional care in a medical facility. Agencies provide trained doctors and nurses, as well as other skilled caregivers, to handle things like injections, wound care, nutrition therapy, and more, from the patient’s home.
Recent regulations, currently set to go into effect in July, have been put in place to improve the level of care received in these home health care situations, particularly for patients on Medicare. Some of these changes include…
- Patient Input. In the doctor’s office, patients are usually given an opportunity to discuss treatment options with their physician, including what will be most effective, what they’re comfortable with, what they can afford, and more. In home health care, that’s not always the case. Caregivers often make decisions on their own and administer treatments at their own discretion, without discussing it with the patient or their family. Under these new regulations, however, patients would be given more input throughout the process, so that they and their doctor can decide together what the best course of action is going forward.
- Patient Rights. It can be difficult, in a home health care environment, to understand exactly what their rights are. They’re not always made fully aware of what treatments are available to them, or how the health care agency is assessing their needs and working to help them reach their goals. The new regulations would require caregivers to inform patients of all their rights, both verbally and in writing, and make sure that it’s done in a way that the patient can understand clearly. There are also more clearly defined guidelines on what to do in case of patient abuse and how to prevent it.
- Inclusion of Caregivers in Decision Making. When an elderly person begins to fail, whether mentally, physically, or both, they will often receive care from a spouse, child, or other family members. That caregiver is in charge of their well-being and intricately involved in their day to day lives. However, until these new regulations were passed, physicians were not required to discuss patient issues with them, unless they’d been granted power of attorney. Now, however, family caregivers will be included when developing a care plan for the patient—including factoring in their work schedules and other issues. By working together, it should make it easier to find care solutions that better benefit everyone.
- Protections from Discharge. One of the biggest pitfalls of home health care is its lack of resources. If there isn’t enough staff to continue providing care to a patient, they can be discharged by the agency, regardless of whether or not they’re actually healthy enough to function without care, and be forced to fend for themselves. The new regulations guard against this. Agencies can no longer discharge or transfer a patient without the approval of the doctor. The doctor then has the opportunity to recommend another solution that will continue providing the patient with the care they need, without continuing to exhaust the agency’s resources.
These new regulations governing home health care are currently set to go into effect beginning in July. However, there’s a chance they may be delayed, while Donald Trump and his administration review it, to determine its viability. It’s estimated that these new policies will cost home health care agencies $293 million in their first year, and $234 million annually after that. However, the benefits that they provide to patients on Medicare, including more rights and better overall care, far outweigh the costs.