Home Health Care: Which Company is the Right One For Me?

Healthcare decisions are some of the most important ones we make in our lives. And they are particularly difficult ones because we make them when we are under extreme stress. Add to that the lack of information about options, and it becomes a wonder that we ever get it right.

We hear frequently, patients are being discharged from hospital and rehabilitation facilities ‘quicker and sicker.’ As a result, doctors often give orders for home health care. Home health care is a great service. It provides skilled nursing care and therapy for patients, making it possible for them to return to their homes safely. The problem comes when the patient—or the patient’s family—has to pick a home health company. Typically, patients receive a list of home health companies in their area but no guidance on which one to choose. Like so much else in healthcare, people end up making important decisions in total ignorance of the pros and cons of the various options.

As a recent Health News article pointed out, most people are unaware that the Medicare website provides information and quality ratings on home health care companies. This lack of awareness extends to discharge planners and others in the medical field. Compounding the problem is the reality that discharge planners, who may know about companies on their lists, at least by reputation, are not allowed to recommend particular providers. The restriction was designed to prevent undue influence by home health companies, steering and kickbacks, but, as with many well-intentioned regulations, it has the effect of making it very difficult for patients to gather the information necessary to make an informed decision.

The Medicare site contains a section called Find home health services where users can view all Medicare certified home health companies in their area and compare up to three at a time. The site provides general information on these companies, including the types of care and/or therapy each offers. The site also posts the results of quality measures—improvements in mobility and self-care, pain control, wound prevention and others, as well as patient survey results, which offer some insight into patient satisfaction. As with the data used for Find nursing homes, much is based on self-report. While the data is not perfect by any means—it is better than nothing. In all my writing, I urge you to become a knowledgeable consumer. Your health—and sometimes your life—may depend on it

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