Flu Pandemic Report Outlines Home Health Providers' Role

Home Health Care During an Influenza Pandemic: Issues and Resources, a new report identifying home health care as a critical component in providing care during a pandemic influenza event and offering resources to home health care providers and community planners to prepare for such an event, was recently released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in collaboration with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

"To date, there has been little information about how home health providers could meet a sudden demand for services during a public health emergency, although it is extremely likely that these agencies would be called on to provide additional services at a time of need," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. "This report offers practical advice and potential strategies to ensure that home health care can meet emergency demands and continue to provide safe, high-quality care."

The report emphasizes the home health care sector's potential to help handle a surge in patients during a biologic event and stresses the need for involvement of home health care agencies in advance planning and coordination at the local level. It offers resources and suggestions on addressing key elements of home health care preparedness and includes lists of existing tools and models throughout.

Examples of issues and strategies addressed in the report include:

  • Exploring the use of technology to monitor patients at a distance.
  • Collaboration with community partners.
  • Legal and ethical considerations of providing care under emergency conditions.
  • Home health care workforce issues, including training.
  • Recommendations for additional action and research at the federal, state, and local levels.

"Community planners, state, and local public health departments and health care systems must look critically at leveraging the existing resources of home health care agencies to meet the possible surge demands of an influenza pandemic," said HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response RADM W. Craig Vanderwagen, M.D., whose office initiated and funded the report in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Home health care agencies, community-based service providers and area agencies on aging are an essential fabric of our communities," added Josefina G. Carbonell, HHS Assistant Secretary for Aging. "The services they provide are already necessary for home and community living for more than 10.4 million older adults and their caregivers. A pandemic will increase the need for these services and provide challenges to their delivery."

The report is based on the findings of an expert panel meeting, including representatives of home health care, emergency and disaster planning, professional organizations, and federal and state government agencies. It can be found online at www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/healthcare/homehealth.html.

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