Before the pandemic hit, in-home care was on the rise as many folks see the benefits of moving acute, primary, and palliative care from the hospitals or health care institutions to the patient’s home. Although seniors make up a considerable portion of the demographics requiring this type of service, anyone who’s deemed to have a vulnerable or frail health condition can choose to have in-home care. Patients recovering from major surgery or illnesses will benefit from this type of setup, regardless of age.

Many health care insiders believe that this method of providing health services offers remarkable opportunities to boost the industry in general. In-home care is a relatively new type of service. A lot of work still has to be done to make it widely accepted by the broader population.

Here are some of the biggest challenges of in-home health care and the possible solutions to overcome them. 

Patient’s Hesitance

There’s no doubt that home health care can be a reliable way of caring for people suffering from various health conditions. But the fact remains that many patients hesitate to embrace this new setup. Instead of going home, a significant number of patients still want to stay in hospitals for acute illnesses and palliative or post-operative care. They feel more comfortable in hospitals knowing that, in such facilities, medical equipment and personnel are present round the clock.

Another challenge to an in-home health setting is the patient’s fear of admitting outsiders into their homes, even if such people are nurses, nurse practitioners, clinicians, or other health professionals. For most folks, a home is a sacred place. Admitting people who are practically strangers, even if they’re health care workers, is an invasion of privacy.

Some patients also have had a negative experience with in-home health care providers. Issues like negligence and abuse from health workers are ever-present. As a result, it’s difficult for some people to trust in-home health professionals.

So, how can the patient’s hesitation be addressed? Home health care providers, along with the patient’s physicians and family members, should explain the setup carefully for starters. Many people say no to this setup due to a lack of understanding. Also, health agencies should guarantee that they will only assign vetted health professionals to in-home patients. This assurance will surely ease the patient’s fears.

Cost Of In-Home Health Care

Another barrier to the broader adoption of this type of service is cost. Many people fear that the patient’s health insurance doesn’t cover at-home care. Patients are afraid of out-of-pocket expenses, especially those who are retired and relying mainly on their pensions and savings.

In-home care costs shouldn’t be an issue if you have Medicare and other types of health insurance. In some cases, insurance providers even encourage this type of setup because it’s cost-effective. At the same time, in-home care allows patients to leave the hospital sooner. The only thing you ought to remember is that your physician should prescribe this setup as part of a plan to address your medical condition.

Pandemic Fears

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s home health care industry. Many patients are afraid to entertain people in their homes, including home health caregivers, because of the fear of getting infected. The trepidation is understandable because most individuals who require this service are usually fragile and vulnerable. And figures have shown that people who are sick and have compromised immunity are more prone to developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.

With the fast vaccine rollout in many parts of the world, this challenge is being addressed. Once the patients and their assigned health workers have completed their COVID-19 vaccination, many people will start to be amenable to a home health care setup. Also, health home care agencies have already come up with health protocols, such as the use of surgical masks by patients and personal protective equipment by health professionals to protect the health of both parties during home visits.

Clinician’s Apprehension

Aside from patients, clinicians also have concerns with this type of setup. This apprehension may dissuade other physicians, nurses, or nurse practitioners from participating in in-home health care programs.

One of the main problems is time spent per patient. Usually, home care clinicians can only see as many as seven patients a day. But if they work in a hospital or clinical setting, they can see even more patients and earn more. Clinicians usually spend time assessing the economic and social conditions that may affect the patient’s health and recovery. Safety is also an issue for most clinicians. Some are hesitant about going to areas that are hard to access or have high crime rates.

So, how can home care agencies overcome clinician’s apprehension? First, home care providers could make compensation more attractive by offering additional perks or even hazard pay when necessary. They should ensure safety measures are in place to prioritize the clinician’s protection. For example, they can provide clinicians with a way to contact emergency responders quickly with a push of a panic button.

Communication Issues

Communication among physicians, insurance representatives, clinicians, patients, and families can sometimes be a problem. Suppose the persons involved in deciding whether to put the patient in an in-home setup or continue to stay in the hospital have difficulty expressing themselves. In that case, it could lead to misunderstandings and other issues.

The best way to address communication problems is through training and proper protocol. Also, resources or literature that provides a clear explanation of services, costs, and requirements should be available and readily accessible for the perusal of the patients and their family members. Service providers may also provide a checklist to clinicians and insurance representatives to ensure that everything is tackled and explained. 

Support Equipment And Infrastructure

Many patients who were advised to stay at home to recover from their surgery or illness require appropriate support infrastructure and medical equipment such as oxygen tanks, hospital beds, commode chairs, and other medical devices. Such tools aren’t typically present at home. So, many patients are afraid to leave health institutions and hospitals, knowing they don’t have what they need at home.  

The increasing number of companies offering mobile health services, such as radiology or laboratory, is a step on the right track in helping promote in-home health care. Patients who are fragile and weak will be willing to get the tests they need at the comfort of their homes. Another solution to the lack of support infrastructure at home is for insurance companies and Medicare to cover durable medical equipment necessary for in-home health services of patients.

Technology Complications

Technology as a barrier to in-home setup usually involves older patients who aren’t familiar with modern devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Often, patients who belong to this demographic feels too old to learn how to use what they perceive as complicated devices. 

However, technology is necessary for health agencies to better monitor and care for patients. Another essential role of gadgets play is for scheduling purposes. In other words, having patients at home requires the use of new technology. 

Fortunately, the intimidation being felt by many older patients in using modern devices is an easy barrier to overcome. Patients will be more willing to learn and understand why they need to use new technology if their healthcare providers and family members can patiently explain the importance of such devices to improve care management and communication. 

As soon as patients understand the need for such devices, they’ll be more open to learning how to use them. Of course, it’ll take time to get comfortable using tablets, smartphones, or laptops, so the healthcare agent responsible for teaching them should be patient and very clear with the use instructions.

Confusion With Home Care

A misunderstanding of what home health service entails is also one of the challenges faced by in-home care setup. Since the terms home health care and home care are similar, many folks interchange them. But the services of these two at-home settings are quite different from each other. Thus, expectations aren’t met because of the confusion. Before you know it, frustrations arise.

It’s crucial to explain to patients that home health care is a service provided by licensed health professionals, such as practical nurses, occupational therapists, or physical therapists. They provide medical and clinical supervision under the management of a physician. This type of setting is covered by insurance and Medicare.

On the other hand, home care is geared toward helping individuals with their day-to-day activities, such as meal preparation, bathing, dealing with incontinence, cleaning service, grocery, and sometimes even transportation. Trained professionals provide this service, but they can’t offer anything medical in nature, except probably minor first-aid. It’s important to note that home care isn’t covered by insurance or Medicare.

Home health providers need to clearly explain what type of services they will provide to prevent confusion and manage patients’ expectations. Of course, out of the compassion by some clinicians, they can sometimes acquiesce to home care requests from their patients even if such wishes aren’t part of the clinicians’ responsibilities.

Final Thoughts

In-home care is an excellent alternative to staying in hospitals, whether to await full recovery from an illness or to provide long-term care for older patients. But even if a growing number of people have expressed their preference for this kind of healthcare setup, many challenges keep in-home care from being widely accepted. Fortunately, with today’s technology, staying at home while getting healthcare services may soon become the norm.