The home health care sector is experiencing a boom in the United States. Once seen as a luxury service for the wealthy, home health care has expanded to serve residents of any financial status and location, including rural areas not served by healthcare facilities. With the rise of this sector has come new challenges and risks, not only for home health staffing organizations but for the staff who deliver care to patients. Insurance for home health care providers serves as a foundation for risk management; by adequately identifying and addressing risks, providers can continue to serve communities across the country.
Risks in the Home Health Care Environment
Across the healthcare industry, risks account for millions of dollars in claims for staff and patients alike. The home health care sector faces several risk exposures not experienced by hospitals and care facilities, however, and it is important to understand some of these unique risks. Risks facing home health care workers include:
- Travel – The leading risk for home health care workers is the necessity of travel and from patients’ homes. Patients may live in remote locations, requiring extensive travel time and the myriad risks associated with travel. Often, healthcare workers will be alone when visiting patients’ homes. This opens the door to further staff safety and security issues, such as harassment, abuse, or criminal behaviors like theft or violence.
- Pets – Pets are not likely to be encountered in hospitals and care facilities, yet they present significant risks to those in the home health care sector. A patient’s pet may bite or scratch healthcare workers, inflicting injuries that can interfere with workers’ ability to deliver care. Allergies to pets may also cause issues, preventing home health care workers from visiting certain patients’ homes.
- Work conditions – The patient care environment cannot be overlooked when it comes to unique risks. Unlike hospitals and long-term residential care facilities, patients’ homes may have trip and fall hazards, inadequate lighting, or dangerous conditions that can increase the chance of injury, not only for healthcare staff but also for the patients they serve.
- Infection control – Healthcare workers have extensive training in preventing infections from spreading, including the proper disposal of needles and other sharp instruments. Patients in the home health care setting may not dispose of sharps properly, potentially exposing themselves and others to pathogens. Home settings are not as easily disinfected as hospitals as well, further increasing the risk of infection from affecting residents and home health care workers.
- Patient handling procedures – In hospitals, specialized lifting equipment and “lift teams” are commonly available to move or reposition patients. In the home health setting, workers may not have access to these assistive services, and are at a greater risk of overuse or strain injuries. Patients and staff may become injured during physical handling.
Risk Management in the Home Health Care Setting
To protect patients, caregivers, and staffing agencies from injuries resulting in expensive claims on insurance for home health providers, the principles of risk management come into play. Risk management strategies encompass several steps, and for home health care workers, many of these steps are centered on working alone in remote settings. To manage risks effectively, best practices include:
- Identifying potential risks using hazard assessment tools. Potential risks can include travel aspects as well as the conditions of patients’ homes.
- Reducing or eliminating identified risks. In patients’ homes, some of these risks are unavoidable, but conscientious caregivers can help homeowners address some of the biggest risks, including securing pets during caregiver visits or by removing tripping and slipping hazards.
- Providing staff with the training necessary to recognize potentially violent situations and to use de-escalation techniques to respond to threatening situations.
- Ensuring that staff have adequate resources and equipment needed to transfer, move, or reposition patients in the home.
- Establishing a communication system (mobile phone or radio) so that caregivers are able to seek assistance as needed, including summoning law enforcement or rescue personnel.
By implementing risk management best practices, home health care workers and their patients are made safer. Insurance for home health care providers is but one tool in the comprehensive risk management toolbox; by identifying and mitigating potential risks, quality of care is all but assured by the compassionate and dedicated workers in the home health care sector.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at 877.226.1027.