Study Finds Family Member Volunteer Care Program Reduces Hospital Readmission Rates

Partners in Healing, a program where family members of hospitalized patients are invited to take part in caring for their loved ones, reduced readmission rates and enhanced the healing process for patients, according to a study published in CHEST.

Partners in Healing, a program where family members of hospitalized patients are invited to take part in caring for their loved ones, reduced readmission rates and enhanced the healing process for patients, according to a study published in CHEST.

Pioneered by Intermountain Healthcare, Partners in Healing allows family members to participate in basic levels of care that will prepare them to take care of ill or injured loved ones when they return home.

"The vast majority of families like to have something to do and they like to participate in patient care. They're often the most motivated member of the care team," Michelle Van De Graaff, RN, of Intermountain Medical Center, said in a statement. "We've found that families not only want to promote healing, but patients benefit from someone who knows their preferences, and the result is, the rate of readmissions is reduced after patients are discharged from the hospital."

Researchers focused on adult heart surgery patients at Intermountain Medical Center who had families participate in the program and those who did not during the study. In addition, 30-day all-cause readmissions, 30-day all-cause mortality, length of stay, and the number of emergency room visits were analyzed by Intermountain researchers.

The program begins with nurses introducing the program to families who are interested in participating. If they agree to participate, family members are taught a few basic skills and given a badge to alert hospital staff that they are a member of the care team and can access amenities for their family member. Family members write what they do on a checklist taped to the patient’s door which is then transferred into the computer system by the nurse.

Family members will help their loved ones with breathing exercises, assist with activity, give help to the bathroom, measure urine output, and record how much a patient eats and drinks.

"These are simple tasks, but they give families a sense of control and knowledge about what they can and can't do," explained Van De Graaff. "By inviting them onto the healthcare team, we're also preparing them to take over care when a patient goes home."

The data show that the 30-day readmission rate was 65% lower for patients whose families participated in the Partners in Healing program. 92% of program participants found that including their families in the healing process improved their transition from hospital care to home care, and 94% stated they would recommend the program to other families.

Those who have participated in the program found that communication between hospital staff and families improved. Patients and their families found they had more control over when they could perform care activities, rather than following a schedule based on nurse or patient care technician availability.

The Mayo Clinic has also tested the program; Partners in Healing will now expand to the other 21 Intermountain Healthcare hospitals and will be available in all nursing units.

"Offering the Partners in Healing program to the patients and families in all of our Intermountain hospitals is a commitment to providing the best care possible to our patients by involving their loved ones in the healing process," stated Tammy Richards, assistant vice president of Patient and Clinical Engagement at Intermountain Healthcare.

Reference

Van De Graaff W, Beesley SJ, Butler J, et al. Partners in healing: postsurgical outcomes after family involvement in nursing care. CHEST. 2018;153(2):572-574. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chest.2017.09.046