by Elizabeth E. Hogue, Esq.

Noora Health has developed a program of “health companions” in a variety of types of healthcare settings (“Teaching Patients How to Heal,” The New York Times, April 14, 2024) to help patient heal. The basis of these programs is that when medical information is properly communicated to patients and their families, complications of surgeries and illnesses are reduced. An added bonus is that acts of violence by frustrated family members against health care workers are reduced.

If patients are most comforted by their loved ones, why not involve them in the healthcare process? “We realized that caregivers get little to no guidance within the health care system,” said Shahed Alam, a co-founder of Noora Health. Many patients do not know why they are receiving care. Doctors and nurses tend repeat the same information to patient after patient.

In institutional settings, staff nurses literally take over the floors to teach patients and their family members. On cardiac floors, for example, staff nurses tell patients how to cough without stressing their hearts, how to scratch without adversely affecting their wounds, and how pacemakers work. Staff nurses also help patients sift through good and bad information. Classes frequently include how to manage side effects of medications and the importance of handwashing.

Many patients and their family members come to view the staff nurses as therapists, coaches, friends and philosophers all rolled into one. A family member who received help from a health companion described the companion as a “friend” without whom she would not have been able to care for her family member.

Although home care providers, including Medicare certified home health agencies, hospices, private duty home care agencies, and durable medical equipment (DME) companies do not necessarily have a “captive audience” like institutional providers, it is still possible to utilize health companions. Field staff can be trained to provide teaching that is similar to that provided by health companions. Teaching from health companions may also be provided to home care patients and their family members in group settings. Hospices may, for example, provide volunteers to be with patients while their caregivers attend. And, of course, virtual teachings with health companions may also prove valuable.

Providers often consider ways to differentiate their services in a competitive marketplace. Perhaps the use of health companions is one way to do so, Providers may also enhance loyalty from patients and their families, improve quality of care and prevent emergency room visits, hospitalizations and rehospitalizations. Think about it!

©2024 Elizabeth E. Hogue, Esq. All rights reserved.
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©2024 This article appeared in The Rowan Report. All rights reserved.