About Home Health Services at UPMC
Health care is offered in their own homes to patients to help them recover from surgery or illness, compensate for a disability, or deal with a chronic or terminal illness. Home care can help patients who need assistance with everyday activities as well as medical, nursing, social, or therapy treatment. Generally, home care is appropriate whenever a person is not sick enough to be hospitalized but needs ongoing care. Usually this care cannot be provided by family and friends. UPMC HomeCare offers a network of services that work together to provide a patient's total in-home needs, from nursing to medical equipment. All services can be arranged by calling 1-888-860-CARE (2273).
Benefits of Using a Network
UPMC HomeCare offers a continuum of care, which means you get the right treatment at the right time where you need it most — at home.
In general, home care services are provided based on product line, which refers to individual services rather than a coordinated network of services. Patients can choose from a number of providers to get the care they need:
- Home health agencies
- Hospice programs
- Home medical equipment companies
- Homemaker and home care aide agencies
- Staffing and private-duty nursing agencies
- Companies specializing in medical equipment and supplies or drug infusion therapy
- Pharmacy and related services providers
A patient often needs more than one kind of in-home service at a time. When you use one agency for nursing services, another for home medical equipment, and a third for homemaker assistance, services can be unintegrated, or not coordinated. This can lead to:
- Duplication of effort
- Miscommunication among you, your doctor, and the home care provider
- Inconsistent quality of care
- Patient dissatisfaction and complaints
- Less-than-optimal recovery
An extensive in-home services network, UPMC HomeCare offers a variety of coordinated services and facilities to meet patient needs:
- Home health
- Private duty nursing
- Home medical equipment
- Home infusion
UPMC HomeCare is backed by the full resources of UPMC. The health system's affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh contributes to its international reputation. The two organizations collaborate to perform research that can be quickly translated into breakthrough treatments
Choosing a Home Care Provider
To select a quality in-home service organization that fits your needs, you should arm yourself with information. First, identify the specific needs of the person who needs the service. Keep these things about the patient in mind as you gather information:
- Ability to get around
- Ability to understand directions
- Living arrangements
- Amount of help needed from friends, family, and other nonprofessionals
Ask your doctor, hospital discharge planner, or community social service agency to recommend several home care organizations. Although these professionals can make recommendations about which home care provider to use, the final decision is up to you. Medicare requires health care professionals to tell their patients about the choices available to them.
Once you have a list of recommended home care organizations, call each one and ask the manager or other staff members about their services, policies, history, and staff credentials. Use the following questions to gather the information you need:
- How long has this provider been serving the community?
- How does the organization assure patient confidentiality?
- Does the organization accept payment from Medicare and Medicaid? Medicare certification means the provider has met the minimum health and safety requirements established by the federal government. For patients who are eligible, Medicare and Medicaid provide reimbursement only for services offered by a certified organization.
- Can the organization provide a written description of services and fees?
- Can the organization help you find financial aid if you need it?
- Does the provider train, supervise, and monitor its caregivers and delivery staff? How often does the organization send a supervisor to the patient's home to review the care provided? Are the caregivers licensed and bonded? Regarding medical equipment, how often does the home medical equipment organization check the equipment? Will it provide replacements if necessary?
- Does the organization have an emergency plan in case of a power failure or a natural disaster? In case of an emergency, you need to know that the provider can still deliver its services to your home.
- Is the organization accredited by a national body such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)? Joint Commission accreditation means the organization voluntarily sought accreditation and met national health and safety standards.
- Does the organization create a care plan for each new patient? Will you (patient and caregiver) be involved in developing the care plan and making changes as needed? This plan should include details about the kind of care, how often, and the time period it will be provided. The care plan should be updated as the patient's needs change. Ask if you can review a sample care plan.
- Does a nurse or therapist conduct a preliminary evaluation of services needed in the patient's home? Are family members, doctors, or other health professionals involved in this evaluation? How does the organization conduct its evaluations?
- If equipment — such as a respirator, oxygen, or dialysis machine — is used, does the organization teach the patient or family members how to use and care for the equipment in the home?
- Does the organization have a 24-hour telephone number you can call when you have questions or complaints? How does the organization resolve complaints?
- Does the facility explain the patient's rights and responsibilities? Ask to see a copy of the organization's patient rights and responsibilities information.
In addition, ask the home care organization to supply you with a list of references, such as doctors, discharge planners, patients or their family members, and community leaders who are familiar with the provider's quality of service. Contact each reference and ask about how frequently they refer, any contractual agreements, standards of quality, feedback, and treatment for cases similar to yours.
Many home care providers seek accreditation from organizations that rate quality to prove they have met national standards for care. UPMC HomeCare is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). This means UPMC meets this organization's high standards for quality.
JCAHO accreditation is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality. Its ratings reflect the organization's commitment to meeting certain performance standards. The Joint Commission evaluates and accredits nearly 18,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. An independent, not-for-profit organization, JCAHO is the nation's predominant standards-setting and accrediting body in health care.
UPMC HomeCare also is a certified Medicare provider, so it accepts Medicare insurance. It is licensed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, meeting the state's requirements.
In-Home Services Specialists
In general, home care services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Depending on the patient's needs, these services may be provided by an individual or a team of specialists on a part-time, intermittent, hourly, or shift basis. Professionals include:
A home care doctor visits patients in their homes to diagnose and treat illnesses just as they do in hospitals and private offices. They also work with other home care providers to determine which services are needed by patients, which specialists are most suitable to render these services, and how often these services need to be provided. With this information, doctors prescribe and oversee the patient's plan of care.
Registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) provide skilled services that cannot be performed safely and effectively by nonprofessionals. Some of these services include injections and intravenous therapy, wound care, education on disease treatment and prevention, and patient assessments. RNs have received two or more years of specialized education and are licensed to practice by the state. LPNs have one year of specialized training and are licensed to work under the supervision of registered nurses. The details of a patient's medical condition and the recommended treatment determine whether care should be provided by an RN or LPN.
- Physical Therapist
Physical therapists (PTs) work to restore movement and function, relieve pain, and prevent further illness and injury. PTs evaluate and treat problems with moving, balance, strength, and conditioning. They also teach patients and caregivers special techniques for walking and transfer.
- Social Worker
These professionals evaluate factors that affect sick and disabled patients, whether social or emotional. They help patients and their family members identify available community resources. Social workers often serve as case managers when the patient's condition is so complex that a variety of professional services need to be coordinated.
- Speech Language Pathologist or Therapist
Speech therapists (STs) can help patients regain speech and language skills, learn new ways to communicate, and improve swallowing skills. For example, people who have trouble with pronunciation can learn how to form the right speech sounds through ST. Speech therapy also helps retrain people in breathing, swallowing, and muscle control.
- Occupational Therapist
Occupational therapists (OTs) help patients perform the activities of daily living. These activities include eating, bathing, dressing, writing, cooking, driving, and work-related tasks, such as typing on a computer and lifting heavy boxes. Therapy targets the patient's small muscles and fine motor coordination. When impairments (such as limited joint motion) cannot be improved, the occupational therapist works closely with the patient to develop creative solutions. These include adaptive devices such as tools that grab or reach, orthotics and splints, and learning new ways to carry out a task.