Call for Uniform Standards and Improved Training for Home Healthcare Providers

One public policy group is asking the government to turn its attention to standards for home health care providers.

The National Resource Council (NRC), a nonprofit organization who works to improve government decision making and public policy, recently released a report on the increasing growth of the home healthcare industry and how human factors affect the service provided in the home.

Home-based health care has increased over the last decade, notably because of the aging population, increasing medical costs and pressure on crowded hospitals to quickly discharge patients in order to free up beds. While home healthcare can be improved care for some patients, it does not mean that everyone is suited for home care. And with the growing prevalence of home health care, there is concern about the lack of consistent industry standards and certification for those providing care in the home.

According to the NRC’s report, the most in-home caregivers, whether they are professionals or family members, have limited formal training, differing cultural views about health and often times different language capabilities. These issues, notably formal education, could easily result in the occurrence of medical error or improper medical treatment. The NRC believes that certification and training programs should be created to allow home caregivers to provide more consistent standards of care.

The report also notes concerns about treatment devices used in home health care, from thermometers to catheters and ventilators. The authors of the report, a 13-person panel of doctors, nurses and social scientists, recommend that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) create labeling for medical devices that are intended for home use — and make sure that accompanying device manuals are understandable by the layperson. The FDA should also collaborate with medical device manufacturers to create a database that could be used by health care providers when selecting devices to be used in the home.

By creating training programs, establishing which medical devices can be used in the home, and having federal agencies work with people to make sure their homes are properly set up for in-home care, home care will become a safer alternative for many aging patients.

Source: MedPage Today, “Group Call for Improvements in Home Healthcare,” Emily Walker, 22 July 2011.