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Why continuity of care is essential for optimal health results

Posted February 28, 2020 5:00 a.m. EST
Updated February 28, 2020 1:25 p.m. EST

Getting the care needed over time from one provider that offers a continuum of services allows for ease of management, delivers better care and results in better outcomes. (Photo Courtesy of Hillcrest)

This article was written for our sponsor, Hillcrest.

Aging is a natural part of life, and with it comes various health needs. These needs may require care from a variety of services including after-hospital inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient rehab, home care or skilled nursing.

Managing these various care services over time can be challenging for the average family. More importantly, it's difficult to ensure that all the caregivers from the various providers are up-to-date with correct medical history, care needs and preferences. However, there is a way to avoid these problems, and at the same time, achieve better results.

In healthcare jargon, when one organization provides a full range of senior care services, it's often called a "senior care continuum." Getting the care needed over time from one provider that offers a continuum of services allows for ease of management, delivers better care and results in better outcomes.

"Everyone ages differently and a continuum of care can provide seniors with what they require, when they require it — nothing more and nothing less," explained Natalie Davis, director of rehabilitation at Hillcrest, a full-service senior care organization in the Triangle. "We emphasize the importance of our continuum of care because it means we can deliver true continuity of care, [which is] proven to produce optimal health outcomes for patients who will need various levels of healthcare services as they age."

Davis continued, "Once we care for you – through any one of our health services – we really get to know you. This means you'll benefit from continuity of care – which, simply put, means everyone at every level of care not only understands your history, needs and preferences, but is also providing a consistently high quality of care."

Receiving continuum of care is especially important for aging adults whose needs change as they get older. Perhaps they need help with tasks at home such as bathing or making meals, or maybe they've recently been hospitalized and need after-hospital inpatient therapy that they will continue at an outpatient rehab facility later on.

Additionally, when receiving care at a facility that offers multiple levels of care services, it makes transitions between levels of care more manageable and convenient. Patient records are all housed in one system, providers are familiar with a patient's care history and personal preferences, and loved ones don't have to search for a provider to address new needs if or when they occur.

One patient, Rick, who preferred not to use his full name, found himself in need of rehab and support after receiving neck surgery at Duke Hospital. He received inpatient care and, later, outpatient care at Hillcrest.

"I loved the care that I received — I loved the three people that I worked with in the mornings," he said of his time at Hillcrest. "I had inpatient, short-term rehab at Hillcrest for three weeks. When I left my short-term care facility, I immediately went to a facility for outpatient care. I found that it was a real advantage for me."

Davis said patients can find themselves in need of one type of care, and then realize that another aspect of care is required later on as their needs change. For example, Davis explained that some patients need rehab after a hospitalization or surgery; sometimes rehab is enough; and other times, a patient will opt for home care to help them adjust to daily life as they continue to heal.

"We can meet your ongoing needs as you move through the continuum of care," Davis said. "The continuum of care is not always a straight line. That's why it's important for patients to choose a provider with all the different levels depending on where you are with your rehab, long-term stay or whatever it looks like for you."

Even events like a slip or a fall at home, a stroke or a chronic condition will require different adjustments to a care plan that addresses an onset of new needs over time.

For example, Hillcrest serves many patients struggling with lymphedema — swelling that generally occurs in the arms and legs as a result of lymph node damage — usually as part of cancer treatment. Patients at Hillcrest undergo inpatient lymphedema massages with wrappings that can be transferred to outpatient visits a few times a week.

Other patients come in for therapy after knee surgeries and receive home care services with an aide after they've been given the all-clear by their inpatient therapists. The benefit of continuum of care is that it's catered to the patient, case by case.

As the National Center for Biotechnology explains, continuum of care involves an "integrated system of care that guides and tracks patients over time through a comprehensive array of health services spanning all levels of intensity of care."

"Continuum of care can help patients age in place and live their best lives," Davis said. "Additionally it can be more cost-effective than repeated hospital stays or emergency room visits that come when a patient isn't being continually cared for properly. At Hillcrest, our goal is to provide the right care at the right time, in the right setting and we do."

Rick added, "The quality of care that I received at Hillcrest was top-notch — it was so effective for me."

This article was written for our sponsor, Hillcrest.

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