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News Roundup: October 28, 2013

Make the gift of health care during national Home Care Month

Published by Fosters Daily
October 24, 2013

The Homemakers Health Services will join home health care providers across the state and the nation this November to raise awareness about home care during National Home Care Month.

“Home care continues to be the preferred means of receiving quality health care services. Today, more than 11 million Americans receive home-delivered health care services from agencies such as ours,” says Linda Howard, chief executive officer of The Homemakers. “Caring for adults in their homes is a privilege for us because we know we’re making a difference in these peoples’ lives - we make it possible for them to stay in their own homes, regardless of their condition.”

To kick off National Home Care Month, The Homemakers will be asking area residents to help them make a difference in the lives of their friends, family and loved ones by making a gift to the Agency’s Annual Holiday Phonathon.

During this year’s Phonathon, which will be held the evenings of November 4th and 6th, volunteers will be asking area residents to make a pledge to help The Homemakers continue its mission of keeping people independent and in their own homes by providing a wide range of home health care services.

“In today’s modern health care world, people are not being sent home from hospitals totally recuperated and well. Instead patients are being sent home to continue to recover and heal, with the help of home care agencies,” says Howard. “For nearly 40 years, The Homemakers Health Services has been here in the community to bridge that health care gap between release from the hospital and recovery at home. Our goal is to make the transition from the hospital or a rehabilitation center to home smooth and successful by providing the individual, quality and professional health care services a person needs to complete their recovery at home.

“Our visiting nurses, physical, occupational and speech therapists, home health aides, and members of our home support team make it possible for both people who are recovering from surgery or have chronic illnesses to receive care in their homes where they can be surrounded by loved ones and their own precious mementos,” says Howard. “Through our annual Phonathon we hope to raise the funds necessary to provide those desired services to adults in the Seacoast community who need home care, but can’t afford it or for which there is not adequate reimbursement.

According to Howard, home health care is also regarded as the most viable solution for providing long term care to this country’s growing elderly population. Through technological advances, home-delivered health care has grown far beyond basic professional nursing and home health aide services.

“Today, agencies such as ours offer a wealth of services including visiting nurse, physical and occupational therapy, wound care, ostomy care, infusion therapy, behavioral health care services, medical social work, home health aides and home support services such as Alzheimer’s respite, homemaker and companionship and safety services,” says Howard. “Our ability to continue to grow and to provide people the services and the support they need is largely due to the generosity of those people who make financial gifts to our organization.

“As you prepare for Thanksgiving and recall the gifts for which you are grateful, we hope you will also remember those in our community whose lives you can change,” says Howard. “We hope you will help us to keep them at home where they want to be - where the healing begins – by making a gift to our Annual Phonathon.”

Pilot Program Blends Paramedics with Home Care Services

Published by Home Health Care News
Jason Olivia
October 23, 2013

A new pilot program in Maine will feature ambulatory paramedics making house calls to assist individuals in nonemergency home visits starting November 1, Franklin Sun Journal reports.

Ambulance service company NorthStar’s three-year pilot program, dubbed House Call, joins 11 other pilots across the state that aim to determine whether the program is effective in reducing health care costs for hospital admissions/readmissions, ambulance calls and emergency room care.

At the start of the program, an initial 20 paramedics will be trained to provide house calls for patients referred by their physicians when they are not responding to emergency calls.

The House Call program was recently approved by the Maine Emergency Medical Services, which allows the 12 total pilot programs in the state to provide non-emergency care.

The in-home services provided by NorthStar paramedics could include vital signs, wound care, hypertension monitoring, diabetes management, medication management, as well as potential fall assessments.

Costs for the program are minimal, according to NorthStar, and will be absorbed by the company’s budget.

New Yorkers test-drive telehealth

Published by Modern Healthcare
October 18, 2013

Earlier this year, a telehealth startup called Vital Care Services was selected with partner Pace University as winners of PILOT Health Tech NYC, an initiative launched by the city of New York and the New York City Economic Development Corp. Vital Care is using its $100,000 award to train Pace graduates in the hot telehealth sector, as well as to conduct research on the telehealth process.

In August, the company started a six-month pilot to test the effectiveness of telehealth in diverse communities in Manhattan and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. A handful of Pace student technicians help 127 study participants take their vitals through an Android-based tablet. The data is monitored remotely by Pace-trained registered nurses. The study's goals are to see if seniors can master telehealth, whether they can do so independently and willingly, and if they can use technology to educate themselves as patients.

"We want to increase the quality of care, expand health care access and reduce health care costs," said Chris Gaur, speaking at a panel discussion on innovations in telehealth hosted yesterday at Pace's Westchester campus. A Pace graduate, Gaur co-founded Vital Care with his brother David.

New York City is home to many telehealth startups that, like Vital Health, are exploring the technology's promise. Given the challenge doctors face in treating a growing elderly population, "it is not if you get telehealth, it's when," said Jean Coppola, associate professor at Pace's Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems.

But doctors are concerned telehealth may overload them with needless data on healthy patients, instead of alerting them only when there is an abnormal reading—a dangerous spike in blood pressure, for example—that requires immediate attention.

"There's no way a primary care physician can process more information today," said Dr. Simeon Schwartz, president and chief executive of the Westmed Medical Group. He told the Pace audience that his group practice has 20,000 Medicare patients, and telehealth technology would have to be scaled to serve a large patient population. Technology can only supplement, not supplant, human interaction, he added.

Improving healthcare for seniors through telemedicine

Published by The Hill
Fmr. Rep. Bill Gradison
October 18, 2013

Nowadays we can use our mobile devices to go almost anywhere, which has been a great advantage for many senior citizens. From the bank and the shopping mall to the supermarket and the movies, it’s not difficult to go about the day from the comforts of home. However, when it comes to seeing the doctor - a fairly common occurrence for many seniors - the idea of virtual visits gets a bit more problematic.
The advantages of telemedicine have been advocated by doctors and healthcare experts for years. By connecting a provider and patient virtually from any location and at any time, care can be obtained almost immediately resulting in improved patient outcomes from a trusted provider at a lower cost.

Despite the tangible benefits of telemedicine, there are still barriers limiting the use of these new technologies. One of the important is medical licensure laws that tie providers to state boundaries rather than empowering them via the Internet. State medical board requirements often severely limit the ability of doctors to practice across state lines.

During my time in Congress and now in the private sector, I have seen technology advance but the policy obstacles still remain. Breaking down the interstate licensure barriers for telemedicine that currently exist in the Medicare program will help America’s seniors gain access to quality, affordable healthcare.

Seniors as a group are rapidly increasing, with more than 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching the age of 65 every single day. This rate is expected to continue for the next 20 years and, by the year 2050, the number of senior citizens in the United States is projected to skyrocket to 89 million. At the same time, Medicare is facing a 38 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.

Telemedicine is a perfect tool to use as our population grows older and thus the need for medical attention increases. For seniors with health conditions like diabetes, heart failure, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) receiving treatment can be inconvenient and complicated. For the aging population, these conditions can make it difficult to independently live in their home and in many cases require them to live in assisted living in order to have vital signs and symptoms routinely checked.

Take for example, a senior living in Ohio who regularly sees their doctor to manage their diabetes, no problem right? Well what happens when that senior travels to Florida in order to avoid the Ohio winter? In the current system, that senior has to find another doctor in Florida who isn’t up to speed on the current treatment plan and medical history. Wouldn’t it be easier for the senior to stay in contact and receive care via telemedicine with their current doctor they know and are comfortable with?

Luckily there is new legislation being introduced into Congress by Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) called the TELEhealth for MEDicare Act (TELE-MED) to address these concerns. The bill allows healthcare professionals who are Medicare providers and are licensed to practice physically in one state to be able to treat Medicare patients electronically in any other jurisdiction.
It would also permit that when a provider who has been granted a license to physically provide care within a state or jurisdiction becomes a Medicare provider, he or she may provide care electronically to those with whom they have an established patient-provider relationship regardless of where the patient is located in the United States.

Interstate licensure has already been proven successful by government programs. The Department of Defense has expanded telemedicine opportunities to service members regardless of whether they are on base or at home, and regardless of what state the provider is licensed in. The Department of Veterans Affairs has moved to mostly eliminate cost sharing on telemedicine, recognizing that treating veterans at home is less expensive than treating them in a VA facility. Medicare has the ability to do the same.

As a former Member of Congress, I have worked on many pieces of legislation pertaining to Medicare issues, and it is evident to me that this bill provides a simple solution to a growing problem.

Health Check: Home health care services

Published by WJAR-TV (NBC)
Barbara Morse Silva
October 17, 2013

Four-year-old Hailey McGee was starved as an infant.

"And she has seizure disorder from it, and cerebral palsy and breathing issues," said her adoptive mother, Cindy McGee.

McGee is helping insure Hailey lives her best life. That's why a year ago she contacted Bayada Home Health Care, which assigned her Pam Thornton, a licensed practical nurse who took to Hailey right away.

"We call her 'Beanie Boo' because she's just so cute and happy and she's inspirational," Thornton said.

And apparently Hailey is responding to Thornton, who comes in to the home four days a week, seven hours each day.

"So I do her nursing, her medical. We're part of a team with all the doctors. We do her educational and then I do all her therapy. So she has speech therapy. She has occupational therapy," Thornton said.

What a difference in just one year.

"She's doing a lot more. She's in a gait trainer. She can hold her head up really well. She's making noises. Yes, she's doing phenomenal," McGee said.

"I like to compare myself to Mary Poppins. I kind of go in there and I fix them to where I think they need to be and then I feel like I can move on," Thornton said.

That's why home health care services can be beneficial to so many people with medical issues who want to remain home and more independent. Just in Rhode Island, there are 68 home care agencies.

"We provide over a million home care visits annually to 20,000 patients," said Laurie Ellison.

Ellison owns her own home care agency and is the president of the Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care. A few months ago, she helped choose Thornton as this years' recipient of the Heart of Home Care Award.

"We chose Pam this year because of her knowledge, her energy, her compassion for the services she provides to Hailey on a daily basis," Ellison said.

"I was so grateful. I'm very humbled. But again, it's not why we do it. It's for the patient," Thornton said.

Who might benefit from home health care services? For one, children like Hailey who are medically fragile and adults with medical needs who want to stay in the home.