Exponential Growth

Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital meets the growing demand of rehab patients with home health care

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For more than 60 years Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital has been a leader in rehabilitation care, featuring state-of-the-art facilities and the latest technology. Just two years ago, the hospital was expanded to include the Patient Care Building, which added private patient rooms, new gyms, and an aquatic center.

An expansion on a much larger scale began a little over 10 years ago. That’s when Cardinal Hill began offering home health care, effectively expanding the hospital’s caregiving space exponentially across the Bluegrass. Now, the same expertise, compassion, and technology that had been a trademark of the hospital is being offered to patients in their homes.

While home health care is not new, Cardinal Hill has led the charge to offer more expansive and comprehensive services to home health care patients. “We do a lot of services for patients who need more rehab than just the typical patient who needs nursing,” says Pam Heissenbuttel, MSPT, and director of Outpatient Programs at Cardinal Hill. “That is probably one of the greatest distinctions between our home care and other home cares.

Adds Heissenbuttel, “We started the program because we saw the need for patients who were coming out of our rehab hospital … A lot of home care at the time just provided nursing service. We do provide nursing service, but we provide therapy services as well.”

The push for more home health care services has come from a variety of influences, including insurance companies urging shorter hospital stays, but perhaps most significantly from the patients themselves. Robert F. Taylor, MD, PhD, medical director of Cardinal Hill’s Home Health Program says not only do patients feel more comfortable at home but there is a huge advantage to undergoing rehab in their daily environments. “In the home, the patient gets to practice and learn how to overcome the very obstacles that they’ll face in their day to day setting. When the therapist goes out to visit the home, they can make an assessment and say, ‘Hey, here’s a throw rug that needs to be removed because it is a safety issue,’” he says.

In addition to home health care providers, technology is also making its way into patients’ homes. Telemedicine is a growing part of the home health care landscape, enabling physicians to receive vital information about their patients electronically. Depending the severity of the issue, a nurse can be sent to the patient’s home or the patient can be directed to the hospital. While telemedicine is a vital new tool, Taylor says that the personal touch is still the key to quality care.

“If we’re going to compare telemedicine with physically being there, compassionate individuals trying to really figure out what’s going on with that patient, I don’t think there’s any comparison,” Taylor says. “Technology gets better, our sensing devices improve in quality and accuracy, so we get better information. But I hope that the technology never attempts to completely replace a loving, compassionate, highly trained caregiver.”

As with any health care service, the ultimate goal is to provide the best possible care to the patient. Taylor stresses that keeping the referring physician informed and involved in the patient’s rehabilitation is a key element to the success of any home health care program. Establishing and maintaining those open lines of communication is one challenge. Another is navigating the health care regulations and insurance obstacles while keeping the patient’s needs at the forefront.

“People are coming home (from the hospital) a lot sicker than they used to,” Heissenbuttel says. “They have a lot more needs in the home. The government and Medicare really try to limit that when they ought to be embracing treatment in the home because they’re going to get better quicker, cheaper.”

“Being in a peaceful environment, in a familiar environment, someone coming to your location … that has got to be better,” Taylor adds. “That’s got to be more comforting, less disruptive. I think it’s just one more thing a person could use to get better more quickly.”