Wendy McHaney, who owns Senior Helpers Victoria, is working with the corporate office to develop a recovery care program to reduce hospital readmissions for elderly patients.

Senior Helpers’ corporate office plans to implement the program by the end of the year at its locations across the country.

About 15 percent of the elderly are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days after being released to go home, which is a growing problem, McHaney said. Reducing readmission rates is important because The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spends $11,200 per readmission, which translates into billions of dollars annually.

McHaney became interested in forming a program to help reduce the chances of readmission for the elderly four years ago after her mother was readmitted within two weeks of being released from the hospital. Her mother had a major surgery and was rehabilitated for six weeks. McHaney hired Senior Helpers in the Dallas area where her mother lived to help care for her. After a week, her mother told the Senior Helper employees she didn’t need them anymore. Soon after, she fell, breaking bones, and had to go back to the hospital.

Last November, McHaney went to a meeting with Performance Based Healthcare Solutions, of Houston, where she learned about the company’s research on what causes readmissions. The research spans 18 years with more than 77,000 case studies.

“We decided this was something we were interested in collaborating on. It was that missing piece to a readmission prevention program,” McHaney said. “It has the data behind it, the scoring system and the way to fix the scores. We got together with the corporate office, and said this is something we can issue nationwide.”

From the research, a “life evaluation” was formed, which is a scoring system determining an elderly person’s chance of being readmitted within 30 to 60 days. The evaluation looks at aspects such as if the elderly is maintaining their vital signs or taking their medications on their own and how safe their home is. If an elderly person has a low score, a program representative is called to figure out ways to increase the patient’s score.

“Some things are as simple as ‘We need to remove throw rugs so they don’t fall down,’” McHaney said. “Other times, they may need to have someone with them.”

Senior Helpers Victoria, Senior Helpers Boston and Senior Helpers Round Rock collaborated with Performance Based Healthcare Solutions to pilot the program for six months before approaching corporate. Between the three offices, officials performed “life evaluations” on 50 patients, of whom only one returned to the hospital. The program is already being used at Senior Helpers Victoria.

“We’re excited about it. It’s drastically improved our client-care model,” McHaney said. “We brought in a registered nurse to run the program. We’re excited about the caliber of client care we’re able to provide with this program.”

Kathryn Cargo reports on business and agriculture for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at kcargo@vicad.com or 361-580-6328. Follow her on twitter @kathryncargo.

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Kathryn Cargo covers business and agriculture in the Crossroads. She enjoys reporting on industry trends and getting her shoes dirty out in the field.

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