Going into the hospital for surgery or an inpatient medical stay or procedure can be a worrying event even in the best of times. But add to that the unique stressors of a global pandemic and the thought of receiving this kind of care can become downright anxiety-inducing. Luckily, there are options for after care following surgery that can keep patients safe – at home or in a rehab facility – while they recover, offering high-quality health care and reducing stress and potential re-admission to the hospital.
“We’ve found the most desirable outcomes occur when there is a definitive plan in place for the patient’s transition to home care from the hospital before they even go in for surgery,” said Nicole Hansen, marketing manager for MUSC Health at Home by BAYADA. “Having a care plan and all the necessary referrals in place ahead of time gives the patient peace of mind and allows them to focus on what’s most important – healing.”
The period of time directly following a stay in the hospital can be a vulnerable one for the patient, which is why access to specialized and knowledgeable professionals can mean the difference between thriving at home or becoming increasingly ill and being sent back to the hospital.
“Close oversight after surgery or any inpatient hospitalization is extremely important,” said Kali Junker, RN, BSN, ACM, director of patient outcomes for the Spartanburg Rehabilitation Institute. “The risk of complications, including increased mortality, is greatest within the 30 days following discharge from an acute care stay.”
The Spartanburg Rehabilitation Institute provides comprehensive inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services to people recovering from injuries or illnesses that have caused them to become disabled. Their goal is short-term care so patients can regain physical and cognitive abilities and return home to live independently.
For MUSC Health at Home by BAYADA, Hansen said skilled home health care professionals are trained to safely transition patients from the hospital to a home setting and are proficient in identifying key warning signs.
“They have clear guidelines for when it is necessary to send a patient to the emergency room and when to make an appointment with the patient’s primary doctor. They’re also on call 24 hours a day so there’s always someone available to assist,” said Hansen.
Post-surgery health care benefits include continued monitoring of vital signs, physical therapy, medication management, explanation of after-care instructions, education about additional resources available to the patient, home safety evaluations such as fall risks and reduced anxiety for the patient.
In the current COVID-19 environment, in-home health care specialists can offer technical support in coordinating telehealth visits utilizing a computer, tablet or smartphone, which is especially important since an increasing number of follow-up appointments are completed remotely to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
The importance of pre-coordinating post-surgery care, whether at a rehab facility or at home, as part of a discharge plan cannot be underscored enough.
“Often, things are lost in translation after surgery when patients are coming out of sedation, or family members may not pass all of the information or doctor’s guidance to the patient afterward,” said Hansen.
Junker agreed: “Having a surgical procedure without planning for after care for yourself and those that depend on you, transport to appointments, meals and household management creates a more stressful environment with greater risk for complications and re-admissions, as well as poor surgical outcomes,” she said.
“Ultimately, the less time you spend in the hospital, the better, especially right now,” said Hansen. “Discharges are happening more quickly because we know that the longer patients are in the hospital, the greater the risk for hospital-acquired infections. Recently, potential risks for COVID-19 infection are also a major consideration.”
Patients are encouraged to discuss post-surgical care with their doctor to choose the option and provider that best suits their individual needs.