What is home health care?

Home health care is a type of short-term, at-home rehabilitative care administered by home health agencies or healthcare associated infections (HHAs) to patients requiring skilled nursing care, physical therapy, or occupational therapy. Physicians most often recommend home health care to Medicare beneficiaries or other elderly patients who meet the following qualifications:

  • The patient is unable to leave their home for anything other than short, essential trips
  • The patient requires part-time skilled nursing care in order to recover from a procedure, illness, or injury, and
  • The patient maintains regular appointments with their care provider to monitor recovery progress

Home health care differs from other types of at-home care, like hospice in that home health care workers do not provide 24-hour care to their patients. Medicare covers between 28 and 35 hours of home health care services per week for a 60-day “episode of care” period. This 60-day period can be recertified an unlimited number of times, depending on the patient’s recovery progress and their physician’s recommendation.

Some patients living with chronic conditions are able to secure home health care coverage for a longer period of time either through a home health agency or another long-term care facility type.

Home health care services also differ from other types of at-home care in that they typically do not offer personal care assistance for things like eating, dressing, or bathing. In addition to providing physical or occupational therapies, these services most often include other necessary care like:

  • Patient care education
  • Wound care and pain management
  • Injections and other medication management
  • Blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate monitoring
  • Regular medical assessments

Why is home health care important?

Home health care is important because it allows patients to recover from a procedure, illness, or injury in the comfort of their own homes. This not only reduces health care costs that might otherwise be associated with recovery in a skilled nursing facility skilled nursing facility or other rehabilitation center, but also lowers the risk of contracting a healthcare-associated infection (HAI).

In addition, home health care helps patients maintain a sense of independence through their recovery process. This sense of freedom and autonomy can often help patients transition more easily into daily life post-recovery.