Always the Key: Communication Leads to Effective Home Health Care

Infection preventionists in both the home health care and acute care settings need to communicate and collaborate with each other for the best outcome for the patient.

In all health care settings, one significant barrier to effective care for the patient is lack of exchange of information, especially when the care is at home. Communication tends to be much easier in the acute care settings because the health care workers (HCWs) are all in 1 location. So how do home HCWs overcome that obstacle for patients with chronic illnesses? How can HCWs in all settings work together for the best outcome for the patients they care for?

Recently, Sara C. Keller MD, MSHP, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Armstrong Institute of Patient Safety and Quality, spoke with Infection Control Today® addressing this concern. Her key point is how communication and collaboration between infection preventionists (IPs) in the home health care field and their counterparts in the acute care settings can improve the outcome for the patient. However, where does the Infection Preventionist begin the process?

Sara C. Keller MD, MSHP, MPH: Especially for IPs who work in large work for hospitals or in other settings, where there is a large integrated health system, reach out to some of your colleagues who are in home care…if you don't already work with them carefully…and get a little bit of an understanding of what they're trying to do.

In some respects, [IPs who work in the patients’ home] work very hard, but they have much fewer resources, and [fewer] years of expertise, when compared with many IPs working in more traditional-type acute care settings might have. Reaching out to staff and perhaps quality staff—many agencies do not actually have IPs—and understanding what their needs are. Working with them, perhaps sharing [your knowledge]. They're hungry for educational resources, [so] share any educational resources that [you have] found useful. Certainly, pointing them in directions of widely available resources through APIC, SHEA, NHSN, AHRQ or other agencies and organizations.

Just [get] to know [the IPs], so that if a patient is admitted, for example, to the hospital with positive blood with bacteremia, and a central line, so that the IP may not need to do any further workup, [but still] let the home infusion agency know. It would be extremely appreciated having that information. Communication and collaboration and sharing of resources, both educational and data or analytic resources that might be potentially useful.

As health care moves out of acute care hospitals and into different settings, really thinking of what we do. What the infection prevention community does is kind of across an entire system. And taking that perspective, how can we best collaborate and coordinate with others following the same patient?

Infection Control Today®: Isn't it funny how communication is always the key? For everything, it is always the key.

SK: Always. Always the key.