Health Homecare is a great solution for recuperating patients — it assures trained care at home while reducing pressure on hospitals

Ever felt you'd rather foot the huge bills at the hospital than risk taking back home someone who's just had a surgery? So, what makes you decide thus? That your ward is under constant supervision in a hospital, or that a doctor is always on call?

Then, its time to think differently and, possibly, a little more responsibly. India's hospital bed density hovers around 0.86 per thousand Indians, way below the world average, China's and Brazil's. And, the fact that India bears 20 per cent of the global disease burden ensures there are too many unwell people trying to occupy the available hospital beds.

Paving the way for millions of such people to access good care is the relatively-new trend of homecare for recuperating or convalescing patients. Companies such as India Home Health Care (IHHC) have created a system of patient care that provides the closest alternative to the personal supervision of a doctor. “The families of patients can hand over the reins of care to a set of trained nurses and nursing assistants, who will bring home the same quality of service as a state-of-the-art hospital,” says V. Thyagarajan, Director, India Home Health Care Pvt.Ltd.

Despite all such talk, it is but natural for people to be sceptical about the idea. One of the first worries about agency-supplied nurses is that they are not trained to give specialised or customised care, and are often unaware of the patients' medical history. The others relate to conduct, laxity in service and irregularity.

Well-trained

Addressing such complaints, IHHC ensures that its nurses undergo three weeks of training before being inducted, and are present at the hospital along with the patient for a few days before discharge. Also, they have a reporting procedure that keeps the doctor constantly in the loop about the patient's progress.

Nurses, either from an agency or from a hospital, are brought together for the training, which places them immediately in the hospital environment. They are sent on home visits and sit through classroom sessions; they are observed during their training and judged on skill, behaviour and performance. Only those who fit the bill are roped in. Nursing assistants, trained to assist in all activities except the administration of medicines and injections, also go through this process.

When a doctor feels that a patient no longer requires his or her direct supervision, a nurse, who is aware of the patient's medical history and is trained to handle emergency situations, is sent for.

“Homecare can bring down hospital costs dramatically— by 50 per cent in case of secondary hospital care and by 10 per cent in case of tertiary hospital care. The families of the patients can avail of these services on a periodic basis, starting from a few hours to a few months, or long-term care in case of chronically-ill patients. Our services also include home delivery of medicine,” says Frank Goller, COO, IHHC.

Goller admits that, initially, hospitals did wonder if homecare ventures were trying to compete with them. “Now, they have understood that homecare emphasises in reducing the the duration of hospital stay, and not on replacing the treating doctor. We only work alongside doctors,” he adds.

Families, too, have enough reason to appreciate the concept of corporatised homecare. “They no longer need to stick to the scheduled visiting hours of a hospital, can forget about the logistics involved in taking care of a patient in a hospital, and can be sure about the kind of care being given to their loved ones, because of the constant involvement of the treating doctor,” says Thyagarajan.

This concept seems like a win-win situation for all parties involved, for even the nurses going for home visits seem happier. “In homecare, we need to concentrate all our efforts on a single patient rather than many like in a hospital. Our work hours are fixed, and the company also ensures that the household is safe for women to work in,” says Sajitha, a nurse. For Subashini, another nurse, the advantage is that this job allows for rest. “Only if we are healthy can we take care of our patients — that's something this industry understands,” she says.

All the nurses at IHHC are trained by Lt. Col. (retd.) Ameerunnisa, who has 25 years of experience in the Army Medical Corps. “Placing patients in familiar surroundings not only improves their rate of recovery, but also helps alleviate the anxiety of the family,” she feels.

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IHHC has tied up with a few hospitals in the city, and maintains a network of 600 specialty doctors. It plans to expand its network to all big hospitals here, besides taking it to Bangalore. And, hopes to leave its footprint on 12 cities across the country in the next six months