News &Views

9 Ways to Help Patients Make Post-Acute Care Decisions

June 2019

After severe hospitalization, nearly twenty-five percent of all patients end up back in the hospital without any improvement in their health. Without the right post-acute care decisions, people who’ve suffered a serious health incident, accident, or who’ve fallen ill will only get worse. After a long hospital stay, you need help transition back to home life.

Here are four things that every patient needs from their healthcare provider to transition into good health after acute care.

1. Make Sure Your Patients Are Informed

If you want to ensure that your patients get the post-acute hospitalization care that they need, you need to make sure they know their options. Patient choice is required by Medicare, but they don’t require anyone to take the time to make informed choices about care with their doctor’s guidance. If you aim to be a responsible health care provider, taking the time to inform your patients needs to be a priority.

Many patients find the process of selecting post-acute care to be overwhelming and even unfair at times. Those who struggle the most find it to a system that’s too difficult to navigate when making decisions. They’re not well-versed in medicine, nor should they have to be.

Expecting patients to be experts in medicine is unreasonable and disrespectful to their rights and dignity.

As medical professionals, the best way to help them to make them feel like they can ask any question. If you have the data they need, don’t hold on to it. Share it with them and have conversations to inform them that they’re in control and you’re there to help offer them objective and credible information.

2. Start Conversations Sooner

If you want your patients to be informed about what they should do following their acute care, start the conversation early. Hospitals don’t talk to caregivers about post-acute care choices until the last minute. Sometimes there are just days or even hours to make vital decisions that impact the rest of someone’s life.

Since a serious health event is usually what precipitates those conversations, people are under significant stress when it comes to making those decisions. If patients are under a lot of stress and vulnerable because of the situation, that’s the worst time to make serious life choices.

While you’re trying to offer them as much information as possible, also take the opportunity to give them time to make decisions. People need time to look at their finances and figure out the care they can afford. If they don’t have time, they’ll either make a decision that exacerbates their own or their loved one’s health or else they’ll end up in debt.

These conversations shouldn’t begin when there’s no time to think about them. The moment that a patient is in a situation where they might need this care, the conversation should start. Otherwise, there’s a risk that these decisions are going to happen in a way that puts patients at further risk

3. Talk About Quality and Cost

If you have any quality or cost information at hand, start having that conversation with your patients as soon as possible. While there are different metrics for what “quality” means for everyone, as a medical professional, you know the differe3nce between good and bad care.

In post-acute care, quality isn’t fully defined yet. That means that you have a lot of room to help your patients make decisions about what quality of care they’re looking for. However, that still means you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you when trying to sort through the mire of all the data that’s out there.

Collect and analyze data the best that you can. While you may not be a data analyst, you can help patients make a few generalized decisions by creating a chart with all of their options. While you don’t need to rank types of care or care facilities for your patients, organizing information in a way that’s easier to digest is vital.

4. Keep Institutions Accountable

In the past and looking into the future, it’s the hospitals that provide the care to patients that bear the greatest weight. They’re responsible for developing programs and plans that help patients discharged from their facility with seeking post-acute treatment care. They need to not just put forth a plan conceptually, but they need to know how patients are going to implement that plan.

In some cases, medical facilities are now responsible for patients who end up returning to the hospital. Depending on the state or jurisdiction, some hospitals are now subject to lawsuits or legal ramifications when patients return shortly after treatment. If a patient comes back in 30 days, some hospitals now lose money for that return because the patient discharge plan wasn’t strong enough.

While some medical staff feel like they’re choosing for the patient while helping a patient to choose. However, imagine if you’d never navigated a maze before and someone hands you a map before you go in. Is that person choosing how you navigate the maze or are they helping you to find out what they did in the past?

Use case managers and discharge planners to your advantage. Get them to provide the necessary information to your patients so that they make informed decisions. Leave it up to them to reject the information as they choose.

Post-Acute Care Can Be Life or Death

When you’re dealing with post-acute care, you’re dealing with the future of your patient after a life-changing incident. If you don’t make the right decisions out of the gate, you’ll end up making life harder for your patient will make recovery nearly impossible.

If you have more questions about how to provide for your patients, contact us today.

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