How to Choose a Home Health Agency

by Amedisys

Patients have the right to choose their home health care provider. To get the highest quality care, it’s important to choose the home health provider that is best suited to you or your loved one’s specific needs. Before choosing a home health care agency, interview several providers and ask about the following:

1. Medicare/Medicaid Certification

Medicare and Medicaid cover home health care costs for eligible patients if care is provided by a certified home health care agency. Certification is a sign that the home health care agency meets state and federal requirements for quality care.

Questions to Ask Home Health Agencies:

  • Are you certified by Medicare or Medicaid?

2. Specialized Home Health Care Services

Home health care agencies can provide a wide range of services, such as skilled nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, medical social work, education for caregivers and help with daily activities. Some providers also have home health care specialty programs; for example, heart failure programs or COPD programs. Be sure the home health care agency you choose provides the services you need.

Questions to Ask Home Health Agencies:

  • What home health care services do you provide?
  • Can you make arrangements for all necessary medical equipment?
  • Are there limits on the types of services provided?

3. Staff Credentials

Your home health team should include professionals with licenses and certifications appropriate to their field. Since team members will be caring for you in your home, be sure they have completed thorough background checks and receive ongoing training. This helps ensure your safety and the quality of your care.  

Questions to Ask Home Health Agencies:

  • What are the care team members’ qualifications?
  • Do team members complete background checks and special training?

4. Reputation & History

A strong reputation and long history in the community can be important factors when choosing a home health care agency. A personal recommendation from a friend, family member or health care professional is a good place to start.

Questions to Ask Home Health Agencies:

  • How long have you provided home health services?
  • Are you inspected by an outside organization? If so, when was the last inspection?
  • Are there patients, caregivers or healthcare professionals who recommend your home health agency?

5. Quality Scores

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) monitors and reports on the quality of home health agencies on Home Health Compare. Quality scores of three and above can be a good indicator that you’re choosing a home health care agency you can trust.

Questions to Ask Home Health Agencies:

  • How do you measure quality?
  • What are your quality scores, and how do they compare to the national average?

6. Patient Satisfaction Scores

CMS also measures and reports on the experiences of people receiving home health care. These patient satisfaction star ratings are based on the Home Health Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HHCAHPS) Survey, which looks at communication, safety and other measures. Choosing a home health care agency with strong patient satisfaction scores helps ensure you’ll have a positive experience.

Questions to Ask Home Health Agencies:

  • How do patients and families rate your home health services?
  • What happens if I have an issue or concern?

7. 24/7 Availability

When choosing a home health care agency, find out if staff are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including nights, weekends and holidays. Around-the-clock availability may help you avoid going to the hospital and improves access to care in an emergency.

Questions to Ask Home Health Agencies:

  • Do you have staff available 24 hours, 7 days a week?
  • Who is on-call?
  • What is your average response time?

8. Breakdown of Costs

The home health care agencies you’re considering should be able to explain, in writing, what your insurance or Medicare will cover. They should also mention any anticipated out-of-pocket expenses up front.

Questions to Ask Home Health Agencies:

  • How much will home health services cost?
  • What insurance plans do you accept?
  • Are there any additional fees?

9. Smooth Care Transitions

If you’re leaving a hospital or skilled nursing facility, you’ll want to choose a home health care agency that helps make the transition home as smooth as possible. Help with managing medications, getting the supplies and equipment you need, and doing daily activities like bathing and dressing can help you stay safe at home.

Questions to Ask Home Health Agencies:

  • How soon after discharge can home health services begin?
  • What is the admissions process like?
  • How often can I expect home health visits?

10. Accreditation

Accreditation of a home health agency by a recognized accrediting agency, such as Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC), Joint Commission or the Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAP), shows an agency’s commitment to rigorous standards of excellence and quality patient care. Accreditation is not required of home health agencies but allows an agency to demonstrate their dedication and commitment to a higher level of performance.

Questions to Ask Home Health Agencies:

  • Are you nationally accredited? If so, by which organization?
  • As a consumer, where can I find more information?

11. Personalized Care Plans

Your home health care plan should be tailored to your specific needs, with input from your doctor, caregiver and home health team. Personalized plans make it more likely you’ll get the right care at the right time.

Questions to Ask Home Health Agencies:

  • Do you provide personalized care plans?
  • How often is the plan updated?

These questions will help you differentiate between providers and choose a home health care agency that meets your unique needs.

Find out if Amedisys Home Health is right for you. Call your local home health care center today.

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