Interview: Aged care is a ripe opportunity for hospital in the home | Jonathan Moody

Interview: Aged care is a ripe opportunity for hospital in the home | Jonathan Moody

Friday, February 4, 2022

Aged care and hospital treatment are heavily intertwined areas of healthcare. Not only do people in aged care tend to require more health services, more frequently their ability to recover is often slower, which means the number of resources required to treat them are higher than their younger counterparts, even for the same conditions.

As an allied health practitioner who regularly sees patients in aged care, I’ve observed how often they are cycled through the hospital system only for their condition to deteriorate once they are discharged. This results in an over-reliance on hospitals as their primary care system when alternative options carry less risk and are more comfortable for patients.

Hospital in the Home (HITH), also known as Hospital Substitute Treatment, is a model designed to treat patients with illnesses or conditions that need close care and monitoring, but who are not likely to deteriorate rapidly. It offers a familiar environment for patients and minimal disruption during care.

Here are six reasons why HITH should be an option for aged care.

Return home sooner

It’s no surprise to learn that patients would rather be at home than in hospital. One of the key advantages of HITH is being able to offer a suitable amount of healthcare support to patients in the comfort of their own home.

Once patients are stable, they can return home and continue to receive regular care. Furthermore, they can also receive care that they may not have been able to access in hospital, for example allied health care and access structures outside of the medical environment, such as social and community support.

Faster recovery

Returning home sooner also corresponds with faster rehabilitation and reduced readmissions, according to one study that presented as a 19 per cent reduction in mortality and a 23 per cent reduction in readmission to hospital. This benefits both patients and hospitals.

In some cases, patients may not need to be admitted to hospital in the first place, which reduces the risk of falls and accidents due to changing environments.

Low infection risk

One significant risk of entering a hospital environment is cross-infection. Despite the best efforts of hospitals to maintain a sterile environment, the simple fact of being among other sick people means patients are potentially indirectly exposed to more sources of infection.

Reducing the amount of time patients are in hospital reduces the exposure they have to infection; if they manage to avoid going to hospital at all, even better.

Lower cost to insurers

Hospital is expensive for insurers and so keeping a patient out of hospital helps to lower costs while still allowing for a suitable amount of care. Being able to achieve better health outcomes at a comparatively lower cost is an exceptional cost benefit.

Not all insurers support HITH, however, and some insurers only support certain treatments via HITH. In 2019, Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt outlined a plan to encourage health insurers to cover hospital substitute treatment for a wider range of services. While this has stalled due to COVID-19, the pandemic has simultaneously highlighted the advantages of HITH.

Optimise bed spaces at hospitals

The pandemic has been a great example of what happens when hospitals are overrun. It stands to reason that in a triage system, those who can be treated at home should be treated at home.

Moving stable patients who can receive HITH care out of hospital reduces the burden on the system and keeps beds available for more severe illnesses and conditions. The fact that health outcomes from in-home care are better is a great incentive to select this option.

Better food

I don’t know if you’ve tried hospital food lately but it’s rarely better than a homecooked meal. Opting for in-home care ensures that patients will always have meals that are appetising while meeting their nutritional needs. There’s also something to be said of being able to share a meal with friends and family at home as well.

Moreover, in an age where diverse dietary requirements have become more prominent, HITH makes it easier for patients to find catering that suits them.

With the adoption of hospital in the home care, not only could our elderly rehabilitate faster in the comfort of their own homes, but they are less likely to experience readmission if allowed to recuperate in a familiar environment. Allowing patients to receive quality care while reducing other risks and maintaining their lifestyle is exactly why HITH should be used for aged care.

This article was originally published on Community Care Review

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