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BOTTOM LINE BLOG & RADIO

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As AARP and other groups have pushed to raise awareness of the increasing importance of family members or other informal caregivers in modern healthcare, a new law in Pennsylvania has taken effect requiring hospitals to record the names of family caregivers.

The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable Act—also known as the CARE Act—holds hospitals accountable for recording the name of the family caregiver in the patient’s EMR, informing them when the patient is to be discharged and often providing education and instruction of the medical tasks he or she will need to perform for the patient at home.

Pennsylvania is not alone.  A growing number of states are recognizing the valuable role caregivers play.  So far, 30 states have passed laws similar to the CARE Act. In Hawaii, the law was enacted last year and is set to take effect on July 1.

Providers in Pennsylvania and the other states, though, have a host of competing demands; with clinical staffing already stretched thin, hospitals are also under pressure to manage large volumes of patients while improving outcomes and enhancing  quality of care—all while delivering a positive patient experience. And now, under laws like the CARE Act, healthcare providers also are required to engage family or at-home caregivers consistently during the care transition process—reinforcing instructions, explaining the importance of follow-up appointments, motivating behavior changes and offering moral support.

These demands can be challenging for an already exhausted clinical staff. Organizations are stretched thin, and providers need help reaching patients and their circle of care. According to a 2012 article in the Annals of Family Medicine, the average primary care physician has about 2,300 patients under his or her care. Yet each physician would have to spend 21.7 hours per day to provide all recommended acute, chronic and preventive care for a panel of 2,500 patients.

Family or at-home caregivers can help bridge this gap. When these caregivers are properly trained and educated, they extend  the care team, keeping patients healthy at home and reducing preventable readmissions.

Yet, educating family or at-home caregivers takes time too. Luckily, technology can help. When designed effectively, technology can be powerful tool to extend the reach of the care team and enable them to have an ongoing conversation with patients – and their caregivers. 

Technology can help solve both patient engagement and caregiver education.  For example, at discharge, patients and their primary family caregiver can sign up to receive a series of interactive voice recognition (IVR) phone calls  and short multimedia programs that can help patients and their circle of care understand the condition and support them in recovery. This kind of EmmiTransition series can help a caregiver understand what pneumonia, COPD, or heart failure is — and what medications like water pills do, or why it’s so important to make sure the patient weighs themselves each day. And for the patient, the programs help empower them to manage their conditions and modify behaviors as they transition home, and to keep them out of the hospital.

And because technology can also collect key information for providers— like whether people still have questions around new medications, if the patient has new symptoms or side effects, or a patient with heart failure has gained weight — it can help providers know when specific patients and their caregivers need more help, enabling them to focus their limited staff resources on the people who need it most. If done right, patients will be empowered to take control of their own health, and their circle of care will be educated and accounted for—all without exhausting staff resources.

It is important to focus on family and at-home caregivers, as they provide value and play a critical role in a patient’s optimal recovery. Caregivers not only monitor medication, provide transportation and prepare meals—they also give the patient encouragement and emotional support.  Emmi works with healthcare providers in multiple settings to help them maximize their care transition strategy and connect with patients and their caregivers beyond the clinical care setting. To learn more, contact us.