Each year, the Shawnee Mission Home Health Care team provides individualized care for more than 1,200 patients in their homes. Each case is unique and requires care from the SMHHC team for different reasons. Some may need treatment and care of wounds, intravenous infusions or help recovering from joint replacements or surgeries, while others and their families may benefit from assistance with management of a specific disease. Regardless of the reason, these are all healthcare services that often can be administered at home.

“Home healthcare allows an individual to return to their residence and receive a broad range of quality, professional healthcare services in the comfort and privacy of their familiar environment,” said SMHHC director Jamie Holthaus.

The home health team consists of a variety of healthcare professionals such as registered nurses, physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists, home health aides, dietitians, chaplains and social workers. They work closely with a patient’s physician and their family when determining if home healthcare is an appropriate choice.

In addition to allowing patients to experience individualized teaching and in-home care, receiving care at home also helps patients detect medical issues early before they become critical, as well as avoiding a future hospitalization. Holthaus adds that patients also experience quicker recoveries, improved safety and more independence.

Ensuring safe environments

Although home healthcare provides many benefits, it does not come without challenges. Clinicians have less control over a home environment as compared to a hospital setting. At times, SMHHC finds a patient’s home to be unsafe, which actually increases the chances for hospitalization. SMHHC intervenes when the patient has neither family to help nor the resources to make changes necessary for a safer home.

“Our goal is to keep patients in their home where they recover best, but if we run into situations that are not safe and could lead to increased hospitalizations, we work to get more help in the home or move the patient to a safer environment,” said Holthaus.

According to Holthaus, the most rewarding part of her work is seeing patients improve after a health setback, and spirituality often plays an important role in their recovery. The SMHHC team encourages patients to remain strong in their faith and attend church even though they are primarily homebound. Although not always possible, Holthaus believes that getting out once a week to attend a religious service greatly enhances the health and healing process.

“Upon request, our staff will pray with patients in the comfort of their own home,” said Holthaus. “This especially helps our patients who normally attend church, but are currently unable due to their illness.”

Using new mobile software

Advancements in technology have also enhanced how SMMHC staff cares for patients. SMHHC was recently chosen to pilot a new home health mobile software called Homecare Homebase, that allows fast, easy access to patient data, physician orders and other information from a handheld device.

“Homecare Homebase improves the way caregivers document information in the home and allows them to focus on providing exceptional, quality care for the patient,” said Holthaus. “We are also hoping the software will provide an enhanced work-life balance for our staff since they will no longer be required to complete as much documentation outside of the home.”

Jackie Woods is a writer for Shawnee Mission Health. For more information about Shawnee Mission Health Care, visit ShawneeMission.org