Transitional care comes to hospital

Medicare patients at The Memorial Hospital will have more days to recover in the hospital under a new transition care program beginning July 1.

Chief Nursing Officer Jackie Wilcoxson and Patient Care Planner Beka Warren explained the new system to the TMH Board of Trustees Wednesday night.

The idea of the new system is to give additional care to patients as they recover and get ready to move from acute care to the home, Wilcoxson said.

"It's for people that just need a few extra days of care but no longer qualify as an acute care patient," Wilcoxson said.

Under the new system a patient must be in acute care a minimum of three days.

If the medical staff believes the patient can benefit from rehabilitative or restorative care, the staff can advise that the patient be moved to transition care. A patient can stay in transition care for up to 20 days.

Three rooms and a total of six beds have been set aside in the hospital for transition care purposes.

What makes transition care different from acute care is:

Some personal belongings are allowed in the patient room such as pictures and furniture.

Patient care is centered on helping people to achieve self-care and regain ability to do daily activities.

Patients dress daily and leave the room for meals and other events.

An activity plan is developed for each patient. Activities are designed to increase a patient's skills.

The hospital is able to provide the new service as a result of its recent transition to critical access status.

By becoming a critical access hospital, TMH made itself eligible for cost-based reimbursements for each Medicare patient it serves.

Based on an 18-month study of patients that were treated at TMH, Warren said the hospital would likely average 1.5 patients in transition care per day.

Because of the reimbursement the federal government provides to critical access hospitals for Medicare patients, the estimated increase in annual revenue for TMH would be $460,000, according to Wednesday night's report.

Currently people who need additional care after they no longer qualify for acute care are transferred to nursing homes, other health care facilities or back home where health specialists visit to give the care they require.

Those options will still be available to patients who prefer them, Warren said.

"They can still do that if they want," Warren said. "It's the patient's decision."

But Wilcoxson said many patients might prefer staying in the hospital for additional care.

"People might like this better than being told they need to go to a nursing home," she said.

TMH Community Relations Director Pam Thompson said one situation where a patient might benefit would be in a case where he or she has hip replacement surgery.

"They would go to acute care right after surgery," she said. "When they get to where they don't need as much care they can transfer over. This is for people who are not quite ready to go home and still need monitoring, but not quite as much."

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