How UnityPoint Health is Making Your Hospital Recovery More Comfortable

Nurse givnig after care to a woman at home

Wouldn’t it be great to spend your recovery at home instead of in a hospital bed? With Hospital at Home™, a program developed by the Johns Hopkins University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, UnityPoint Health took community-based care to the next level by improving patient satisfaction and readmission rates. It’s a home-based model many consider as the future of health care, allowing patients to heal in an environment of their choice.

The Pilot for Hospital to Home

UnityPoint Health used licensed materials from Johns Hopkins in 2017 to guide the pilot known as Hospital to Home. That means Johns Hopkins provided things like guidelines, tools, consents, print materials and care plans to get the program off the ground.

“It’s a relatively new idea,” Vice President of Operations for UnityPoint at Home, Todd Richard says. “Very few health care organizations have put this idea to work to the extent we did. However, there are a handful of similar programs in the country that have developed in the last five years.”

UnityPoint Health chose to test this program with patients diagnosed with a limited set of diseases and illnesses, including pneumonia or COPD. Then, a doctor would evaluate the patient’s ability to be safe at home and determine if a care team could execute a care plan there.

“If expanded, this program has the potential to reduce the amount of time a patient may be in the ER waiting to be admitted to the hospital. The hospital care team is also able to focus its efforts on those patients that really need to be in the hospital,” Richard says.

If everything met the qualifications for the patient to try the Hospital to Home program, it was still the patient’s choice if he/she wanted to participate.

“When I first got into this work, I thought patients would be apprehensive to this as an option, but research and what we saw really was the total opposite,” Richard says.

Perk to In-Home Medical Care

If you’re thinking, “Can home-based services really be better than lying in a hospital bed?” The answer is yes! Some of the proven benefits found by the UnityPoint Health pilot include:

  • Decreased risk for medical errors (since fewer people are involved in the care)
  • Decreased risk of delirium, particularly in older patients
  • Faster recovery time
  • Improved emotional well-being
  • Decreased risks of infection

“The key to the whole story is people are naturally more at home in their own environment, they tend to respond better and faster in their own environment and they take more ownership in their own home of their well-being than they might in the hospital,” Richard says.

Another perk of in-home medical care is it can be more cost-effective for you, for your insurance company and for the hospital.

Home Health Care Services

Besides sending the physician to the patient’s home, a nurse practitioner and a registered nurse visit with patients in the Hospital to Home program. The care team also takes into consideration other needs, including aides, social workers, medical equipment and pharmacy services, all of which can also be brought right to a patient’s doorstep.

“There is a desire by our care team to be involved in care at a patient’s home. Our experience is that a lot of nurses, physicians and other health professionals relish the ability to spend quality time with patients, instead of being focused on a strict schedule. There are medical professionals who got into medicine for an opportunity like this,” Richard says.

What’s Next for Hospital to Home?

The Des Moines-based pilot program for Hospital to Home is now complete, and all the data collected proves it’s time to renew the UnityPoint Health license with Johns Hopkins.

“We need to begin to challenge ourselves and be comfortable looking at health care through a different lens. It’s sort of what Amazon did in its industry. They are totally flipping the model upside down to get the desired results. If we want to move health care to where it needs to go, we need to be open to, and comfortable with, programs like Hospital to Home. We want to be the next Amazon for health care, driving this transformation versus waiting on the sidelines for someone else to do it,” Richard says.


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