When Home Health Patients Are LEP

By David Fetterolf, Stratus Video President

Home health is an ideal solution for individuals in need of ongoing care for conditions like diabetes or heart conditions, patients who are transitioning from hospital to home requiring follow up care and seniors in need of regular assistance when it comes to maintaining their health and well being. Often prescribed as follow up care after a hospitalization, home health is conducted in the comfort of the patient’s home by registered nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists and other skilled medical professionals.

More than half of the home health patient population consists of individuals over the age of 65. A 2014 U.S. Census Bureau report estimated that by 2040 the population of individuals over 85 will triple, and by 2050 there will be 84 million Americans aged 65 and older. According to the Alliance for Home Health Quality and Innovation, close to 70% of individuals aged 65 and older will not be able to care for themselves at some point without assistance. With the aging population on the rise in the United States, so too is the demand for home health services.

Home health services ease the transition from hospital to home after a hospital stay, and those who receive services post discharge are less likely to be readmitted to the hospital.  Paramount Healthcare data shows patients who received home health services within 14 days of leaving an acute care hospital were 25% less likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. Home health services are also correlated with better patient outcome.

A systematic review on home health for heart failure patients found that regular check-ups and care delivered in the patients’ home reduced both hospital readmissions and patient mortality. In addition to mounting evidence supporting the benefits of home health on patient outcome, an overwhelming majority of patients prefer to receive care within their homes versus in the hospital.

Patient outcome is dependent on meaningful communication, particularly at times of transition of care. When patients receive care at home, providers must bring a variety of services with them to facilitate that care, including language services for any patient who does not speak English or has limited English proficiency (LEP). 

A study by researchers at the University of Toronto on LEP patients and length of stay reported a higher number of readmissions occur with LEP patients due to the “LEP patients’ greater difficulty understanding instructions, including how to prepare for a procedure, manage their condition, and take their medications, as well as which symptoms should prompt a return to care or when to follow up”. The rate of readmission decreases significantly when a qualified medical interpreter is used to ensure effective communication is taking place.

Stratus Video offers several solutions that are ideal for facilitating communication in the realm of home health. With our video remote interpretation (VRI) service, patients and providers can instantly connect with qualified medical interpreters over secure video. The application is ideal for home health providers, as it can be loaded onto any handheld device, and our interpreters can be reached over Wi-Fi or 4G.

LEP patients can communicate in their preferred language on demand, and home health providers can feel confident that effective patient-provider communication is taking place. For more delicate conversations, home health staff can request the assistance of local qualified medical interpreters via our geolocation app Stratus InPerson.

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