Speeding Along

Expect home health businesses to grow in popularity as hospitals try to decrease the costly problem of people who are repeatedly hospitalized for the same condition.

Craig Stevens of Fair Haven has no idea if Residential Home Health, a home health care firm in Madison Heights, is keeping him out of the hospital. But he delights in the comfort that comes with having his vital statistics transmitted electronically to the company every day.

“I have the peace of mind to know where everything is, and that’s more important than anything else,” says the 67-year-old retired printer, who has heart failure problems, diabetes, asthma, and emphysema. “If something’s a little off, they call me.”

Along with gaining reassurance from the additional monitoring, Stevens shed 40 pounds and cut his insulin by 60 percent. His situation is right in line with the company’s mission of keeping people safe, independent, and in their homes as long as possible, says David Curtis, president of Residential Home Health.

“We have a good sense of how to help patients that aren’t going to be cured,” Curtis says. The company, he adds, has a 16.8 percent overall readmission rate for Medicare patients and a 6.2 percent rate for patients with heart failure — both of which beat industry averages.

Expect home health businesses like Residential Home Health to grow in popularity as hospitals try to decrease the costly problem of “frequent flyers,” or people who are repeatedly hospitalized for the same condition. The challenge became more acute in October, when Medicare began cutting reimbursements to hospitals if their readmission rates were too high.

Also playing a role in efforts to halt revolving-door readmissions are hospice providers such as Residential Home Health’s affiliate, Residential Hospice, as well as call centers and companies that manage electronic medical records. Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, for example, contracts with Pennsylvania-based Emergency Excellence’s patient callback agents to contact all of its discharged patients to check their well-being and satisfaction with the hospital. And while doctors can continue to use in-house staff to make follow-up patient calls, it’s becoming increasingly mandatory for them to have access to electronic medical records. The ability to easily share information about a person’s hospitalization with a hospice; a home health, nursing, or rehab facility; and an individual’s personal physician is a critical element of reducing hospital readmissions.

“We’re about making sure that everyone has access to the right information at the right time, to allow health care providers to make the best decisions,” says Mike Sappington, CEO of gloStream, a provider of electronic medical records in Troy.

The company’s electronic medical records, which are tailored for doctors’ offices, have a tool for making clinical decisions based on algorithms from top-tier physician organizations, as well as prompts to alert clinicians that it’s time, for example, for a patient’s colonoscopy or cholesterol test. Both can aid in reducing hospital admissions. — Ilene Wolff