Did you know that the prevalence of stroke is expected to increase by 21% by 2030? Over 1.2 million citizens in the US are projected to suffer from Parkinson's disease during this period. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated medical complexities including neurological conditions in patients. Particularly, patients who have experienced long Covid are expected to develop multiple medical complexities and disabilities over time, which might lead to immense stress on the healthcare system. Therefore, healthcare organizations need to prepare themselves to care for the medically complex patients of today and tomorrow.
In this article,we highlight the importance of three factors that are likely to have maximum impact on treating such patients:
1. Keeping your staff clinically ready
Most hospitals treat patients with multiple comorbidities with the traditional staffing model that they have always used. However, recent studies have found that the first three months after discharge are critical to address newly emerging complications such as cognitive impairment, depression and loss of function in Covid-19 patients. Thus, hospitals need to revamp their staffing models to avoid operational inefficiencies and to ensure that desired treatment outcomes are achieved.
Health organizations must chart out rehabilitation programs, deploying nurses experienced in rehabilitation, to help patients with comorbidities. Rehab nurses, unlike regular medical nurses, are trained to help patients suffering from chronic conditions and disabilities achieve better health. These nurses are certified through the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses which trains them specifically in caring for patients in rehabilitation settings. Their expertise helps patients recover soon.
Similarly, Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) help patients achieve optimal functionality to a great extent. SLPs evaluate and treat patients for speech and language problems due to stroke, head injury and respiratory complications. They work together with physicians, nurses, dietitians, social workers, and other healthcare providers to ensure that the patient receives effective treatment.
Hospitals need to also deploy highly trained clinical liaisons to create a positive patient experience and reduce the risk of readmission. CARF and Joint Commission certifications, for instance, are known to improve the effectiveness of treatment.
A dedicated team of infection control specialists can help enforce patient safety in the event of future outbreaks of Covid-19.
By keeping the staff prepared, hospitals can admit and discharge patients safely regardless of the conditions affecting them.
2. Leveraging technology
Since the onset of the pandemic, the use of telehealth technology has increased by 155%, with baby boomers being the greatest user base. Having the latest technology solutions in place is vital for healthcare establishments to deliver quality healthcare in a time of need. HIPAA-compliant video technologies have been increasingly adopted as patients share critical health information using digital tools. Technologies such as exoskeletons and robotics can aid surgical procedures, and thereby help medically complex patients. BIONIK InMotion robots, for example, can be effective in treating patients who suffer from brain injury, stroke, cerebral palsy or Parkinson's disease by supporting their arms.
3. Patient and family experience
A patient's journey to health is just as important as clinical and technological expertise to enhance patient treatment outcomes. Since the pandemic has greatly impacted in-person communication, hospitals must incorporate follow-up calls into their discharge procedure. Patients who receive regular follow-up calls are more likely to not miss their medicines or follow-up visits to the hospital, which can greatly reduce their risk of readmission. Follow-up calls give patients and their families the opportunity to ask questions and address concerns. In cases where the care-giver of the patient is an adult child, specific initiatives to support the care-giver can also reduce the risks of readmission. Dedicated case managers, peer groups, mobile apps, educational material in simple language and transitional support can all help patients transition from in-patient treatment to home care quickly.
As the pandemic has transformed how the healthcare system functions, healthcare leaders must adapt themselves to the changing dynamics of the clinician-patient relationship. Healthcare organizations must rethink care delivery and adopt a multi-dimensional approach in order to nurture medically complex patients back to health.
1. Rise of Medically Complex Patients: Prepare Your Rehabilitation Program - Medically Complex Patients - COVID's Role in the Rise | Kindred Hospital Rehabilitatio nServices (kindredhealthcare.com)
2. How Covid-19 transformed virtual care preferences, according to our 7,000-patient survey. (2021, January 12). - https://www.advisory.com/Blog/2021/01/Covid-19-telehealth?
3. Reading, D. (2021,January 16). Beneficial effects of multi-disciplinary rehabilitation in post-acute COVID-19 - an observational cohort study. - https://www.docwirenews.com/abstracts/beneficial-effects-of-multi-disciplinary-rehabilitation-in-post-acute-covid-19-an-observational-cohort-study/