TeleAdvocacy During COVID-19: A Case Study
Efforts to control the spread of the virus have forced hospitals to severely limit access to patients once admitted. This is true whether or not the patient has been infected by the virus. Overworked staff barely keep their head above water just taking care of their patients, much less have time for any systematic updates on patient conditions. This is exacerbated when the patient does not have any relatives or family in the immediate area, or have not designated someone to act as their Medical Power of Attorney.
Patient Advocacy, as a profession, was born out of the need to assist individuals in navigating our increasingly complex healthcare system. The current COVID-19 pandemic has added one more layer of complexity to the maze, totally disrupting communication once a patient enters the hospital system.
This case illustrates the need for establishing upfront the protocol for ongoing communication when a loved one is hospitalized, particularly when visiting policies are extremely limited.
We recently supported a patient who was hospitalized with several issues and was admitted to the Behavioral Health unit. The patient did not have immediate family in the area and no Healthcare Power of Attorney. His fiancé was his local contact, but without a POA, she could not get any information on his condition. Dissatisfied with his care and exasperated by complete lack of communication by hospital staff, she wanted to get him discharged and transferred to a rehabilitation facility. The hospital resisted, claiming he was not capable of making his own decisions at that point. We were retained to determine what was happening with the patient and were also stonewalled when we tried to obtain his records. We ultimately worked with the hospital legal counsel to get his records released to us, and we where able to get him discharged to a more appropriate environment. Of special note is that we mannaged this case entirely remotely.
Professional advocacy support leads to better patient outcomes, increased satisfaction of patient care received, and less likelihood of hospital readmission.
This case illustrates the need for establishing upfront the protocol for ongoing communication when a loved one is hospitalized, particularly when visiting policies are extremely limited. Of primary importance is to ensure all patients have a signed Healthcare POA, so someone on the outside can get the appropriate information to make the appropriate decisions, in case of incapacitation. If you think a loved is particularly vulnerable during this pandemic, it is more vital than ever that the family plan ahead.
Skilled private Patient Advocates can help with these types of proactive steps, such as a communication protocol regarding care plans during hospitalizations leading up to discharge, as well as continuing to follow the patient outside hospital walls. Professional advocacy support leads to better patient outcomes, increased satisfaction of patient care received, and less likelihood of hospital readmission. This is a win/win for all involved, primarily patients and families, but also healthcare systems and payor sources.
Debby Deutsch BCPA
Patient Care Partners LLC