“Our health care system fails family caregivers” – What can we do about it?

Healthcare must reach patients where they are:  in their homes, at work, outside of the hospital.  Healthcare must support patients and their family care givers wherever they are in their healthcare journey:  recovering from surgery or a procedure, or dealing with a chronic long term disease.  Ellen Bender’s Boston Globe Opinion article, April 25, 2019, states it well, “Caring for a patient freshly discharged from the hospital can be a harrowing experience. Family and friends are asked to take on roles that until recently had been performed by health care professionals, such as administering medications and changing dressings.” And, Ms. Bender notes, “‘There is a surprising lack of consistency in both the process and quality of discharge planning across the health care system,’ reports the Family Caregiver Alliance.”

One of the Senior Surgeons with whom Health Helm works describes this period as the “Zone of Darkness.”  For patients and their families, they are confused about the myriad of instructions.  Or worse, they are confused about conflicting instructions. Clinicians also experience the Zone of Darkness:  is the patient on track?  How are they progressing?  With higher risk patients, physicians wonder if they are developing complications.

Trusted Patient Coach™ (TPC) and our team are focused on shedding light into the Zone of Darkness, enabling patients to better manage themselves, alone or with the support of families and friends.  Patients, or their family coaches, self-report daily or regularly on their progress in recovery from surgery or post-acute treatment, chronic condition symptoms, potential infections (e.g., from incisions or wounds) and clinical complications, medication adherence and physiologic data.  Clinicians monitor these Patient Reported Outcomes Measures (PROMs), “red alerts” generated by patient responses or non-compliance.  Simple messaging within the app is HIPAA-secured, can be initiated by the clinician or patient, and can transmit photos (e.g., of incisions). 

Trusted Patient Coach works for patients and their families on their own mobile device – cell phone or tablet – where ever they are, at home, at work or traveling, is convenient and simple to use, taking a couple of minutes a day.  Patients report, “TPC has been very helpful because I feel more secure being connected to my clinical team.”  And, “It is such a relief to be able to reach out for help when I need it.”

“Supporting family caregivers isn’t just the right thing to do. It can also save money.”  Ms. Bender continues, “Mistakes in home care can lead to hospital readmissions, which are associated with yearly costs of about $41.3 billion as well as reimbursement penalties imposed on hospitals by Medicare as a way to reduce readmissions. About 14 percent of people discharged from hospitals are readmitted within 30 days. “

We are thankful for Ms. Bender shedding more light on this urgent priority!

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