By Christine Tumpson | Photographs by Michael Fornataro
For all of its amazing life-saving and life-changing capabilities, health care in the United States continues to be a confusing and fragmented system that often leaves patients and their families struggling to find the right care, in the right place and at the right time. A unique solution is being developed here in the City of Bridges, however, that promises to connect the pieces for you so that your focus is on what matters most — living life to the fullest.
My father begins his morning with a phone call to me contemplating his future. He says the way he sees it, he has two choices: “I can stay at home or I can go to a nursing facility. And both options have problems.”
Almost all of my acquaintances know well the serious health issues my parents are dealing with. What they may not know, however, is how difficult it has been watching them struggle and not having a good solution for their myriad of health needs. How difficult it is to find a skilled nursing facility where a couple can live together as a unit if different levels of skilled care are required. And how it’s been equally tough to find a home care solution that takes the personalized, compassionate care part seriously.
Many situations can lead to a lengthy home healthcare need, from surgical recovery to chronic management of diseases, such as cancer, COPD, and diabetes, to a terminal illness. Our nation’s aging population, while a cause for celebration, is bringing new challenges in the supply and demand aspect of what is considered to be acceptable treatment and care. Acute care hospitals are critically important and will always remain so, but for the vast majority of patients like my parents, it’s the sub-acute care resources — particularly home health services — that are the lifeline to a better overall outcome and experience.
The folks getting older now are the ones who pioneered societal changes, from going to the moon, to turning on the computer, to advancing scientific and medical discoveries that have dramatically improved our quality of life. They are also the ones who started jogging, taking vitamins, and getting regular physicals. And now, this generation is determined to stay out of the “nursing home” or hospital, and in their own homes for as long as they can when an illness or injury occurs.
But for the families and caregivers, setting up a reliable, effective system of home care for their loved ones can be frustrating, even heart-breaking at times. Putting together the pieces of home care for the patient, and then managing it all, can throw any family into turmoil, as each member Googles options, gets advice from various sources, and forms opinions about the right course of care that may differ considerably with the expectations of the patient. Even when a consensus on the care plan is reached, finding a trustworthy, well-coordinated provider of the services needed is a whole other battle.
Needless to say, this is a pressing issue for our nation’s health care system and a puzzle that needs to be solved in the interest of bettering our society and the human experience. The good news? A healthcare team right here in Pittsburgh is working on the solution.
With a new focus on a coordinated medical and insurance team, AHN has launched a revolutionary model that will bring patients personalized support at home. Already featured in local and national press, the Healthcare@Home model is the design of Pittsburgh native Dr. Brian Holzer, a physician with an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business. As the Senior Vice-President for Home and Community Services at Allegheny Health Network, Holzer and the entire network are radically changing the home care model, by putting the patient and their families at the top of the paradigm.
“We saw a broken, inefficient, and fragmented machine, and thought we could do better,” Holzer explains. “We wanted to create a superior model of home-based care for everyone. And we have everything we need to do it right here. Our goal is to do it right by greatly enhancing the quality and consistency of health care in the most convenient and cost-effective setting possible. And that is the home.”
Manny Sanguillen had knee replacement surgery that required medical equipment in the form of a walker, crutches, and now a cane. He also received infusion therapy with antibiotics and pain management during his recovery at his North Hills home. Sanguillen’s recovery was so successful that he drove his grandson to the DMV!
We are delighted that Pittsburgh Pirates legend Manny Sanguillen is letting us join him on one of the most special days of his life. That means something coming from the world-famous catcher who played 13 seasons in the Major League, including two World Championships in 1971 and 1979. What could possibly rank higher in meaningful days for Sanguillen, we ask? The 87-year-old’s eyes twinkle as he laughs, “I am taking my grandson, the light of my life, to get his driver’s license permit today!”
An exceptional athlete, born in Panama as the middle of 13 children and nicknamed “Sangy,” he excelled in basketball, soccer, softball, boxing, track, and, starting at 23, baseball. When he moved to Pittsburgh, that was it. He stayed, and now markets his BBQ sauce, manages his BBQ stand at PNC Park, and works with the Pirates at the team’s fantasy camps and spring training.
It’s no surprise that at some point, his body would reflect all of this activity. His recent knee replacement at Allegheny General Hospital put him at the center of a new program being launched by Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh, one that made it easier for Sanguillen to stay at home and recover, while receiving 360-degree medical care.
Antibiotics infusion? Check. Medical equipment, like his hospital bed or a walker? Done. Physical therapy? No worries. All under one personal care coordinator, who understood Sanguillen’s needs as well as those in his family
Sanguillen’s grandson proudly stares at the paper he’s holding and his grandfather beams with pride. While he is swooning inside, his stance is straight and tall, perfectly balanced. “Yes,” he laughs loudly, turning heads at the Department of Motor Vehicles, “I have always had good balance.”
All coordinated via an electronic medical record that linked everyone involved in his care, the baseball great’s recovery has been successful and one he says “would never have happened without the people at AHN’s Healthcare@Home.”
+ For your personalized health care plan, check with your doctor about your options and call 1.800.381.8080 for AHN Healthcare @ Home.
Allegheny Health Network Healthcare@Home: Personalized Care Under One Roof – Yours!
Respiratory Services and Home Medical Equipment:
The ability to provide specialized medical equipment and respiratory services in the home allows for patients to transition safely to the most comfortable setting. Having these services under the umbrella of Healthcare@Home lets patients and families focus on recovery and guarantees peace of mind that equipment is appropriate and being delivered by a reliable source. For the patient, the continuity and coordination of care means that any items that are needed can be quickly ordered and delivered while ensuring that the patient’s home is specifically suited to their needs. Working in conjunction with other services needed, Healthcare@Home provides efficient care coordination and is a dynamic model. Services may include, but are not limited to: oxygen, sleep therapy, wheelchairs, power mobility, ambulatory aids, bath aids, beds, and tracheostomy supplies. Our goal is to help the patients recover in a place of comfort surrounded by loved ones.
Home Health Care:
Home health patients often have a chronic condition or are recovering from surgery. For those who have difficulty leaving their home and want to remain independent, a skilled team of home health professionals coordinates closely with a patient’s physician to ensure a proper care plan is in place to avoid events that could worsen a patient’s condition or send them back to the hospital. A skilled team of home health professionals coordinates closely with the physician to ensure a proper care plan is in place to avoid events that could be worsen a patient’s condition. In order to reduce the financial, emotional, and medical hardships from long hospitalizations, the care coordinator in this category has the ability to take on a steward role, captaining everything from hand rails in the bathroom to therapy sessions in the living room. The importance of at-home care resonates throughout the entire family of the patient, as routines can be maintained, schedules made, and medical care administered in the comfort of the home. One of the most significant developments in having a team of medical experts for a single patient is the flexibility of care. As a patient’s condition changes, the team is ready to bring in the other pieces of the health care puzzle quickly and easily, from adding a wheelchair, to pain management, to chemotherapy.
Hospice Care helps patients with a life-limiting illness and their families live their lives to the fullest. The purpose of the program is to enable patients to be alert and pain-free so they may live each day with dignity. A multi-disciplinary team provides comfort and attention to all involved in the care of a loved one to support their goals. This includes 24-hour, on-call nursing, and physical, emotional, and spiritual support. A clear plan and consistent care are essential to making a patient’s journey easier for everyone. It is the team’s privilege to care for patients and their loved ones as if they were members of their own family. Healthcare@Home shines brightest in this area of healthcare, as it brings together all pieces of care network — from the patient and their loved ones, to the caregivers — to provide respect and dignity at this very important stage in life.
Bringing infusion therapy into the home is a critical part of the service provided by AHN Healthcare@Home. Infusion therapy — the administration of medicine and/or nutrition through an IV line, helps patients with acute or chronic illness to avoid hospitalization and to recover in the comfort and privacy of their home. By coordinating with the home health team’s nurses — who are skilled in cancer care, heart care, wound care, and diabetes care — a regimen of infusion therapy can be easily managed from the patient’s own bedroom. For families and caregivers, this means no traveling to the hospital to sit with the patient while therapy is being administered. Exposure to airborne illnesses is also considerably reduced. Best of all, there is consistent monitoring of the patient’s therapy to maximize its benefits. Healthcare@Home provides a wide-range of therapies including, but not limited to, antibiotics, nutrition (TPN or Enteral), pain management, therapies for end-stage heart failure, immunotherapy (IVIG), hydration, and chemotherapy.