Important questions to ask when choosing a home health service for a loved one or yourself:
- Does the agency have Medicare certification? This allows provided services that meet Medicare criteria to be billed to the Medicare program. Uncertified agencies cannot bill services to Medicare, meaning patients either have to pay for services provided or have a supplemental insurance that will cover them. In addition, being part of the Medicare program ensures that the agency is meeting specific regulatory requirements for compliance, billing and quality.
- Is the agency accredited by another organization? Agencies can choose to be accredited by such organizations as The Joint Commission or Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAP) under which they are held to higher standards of care and practices.
- What services does the agency provide? Agencies can vary on the services that they have available. Look for an agency that offers a wide array of services that are going to meet your needs, such as skilled nursing services, physical therapy, occupational therapy, certified wound care nurses, home health aides, medical social workers, etc.
- What county, city, rural areas, etc. do they cover? Some states require home health agencies to have a certificate of need or to be licensed to serve designated areas. Make sure that the agency can service your location.
- What is the availability of staff after hours and on the weekends? Agencies with Medicare certification are required to have a nurse available 24 hours/seven days per week. You want to make sure that if you need services after hours or on a weekend, that the agency has the staff available to meet your needs. In addition, ask about what other services are available outside of normal office hours, i.e., physical therapy, home health aides, specialty services, etc.
- Check the agency’s quality: Visit http://medicare.gov/homehealthcompare for a listing of agencies by location and the chance to compare agencies’ quality outcome measures, process measures and patient experience of care survey results. This site offers checklists for choosing an agency that provides quality care. Agencies can be compared to each other by the location as well as to the state and national averages. Patient experience of care surveys gauge patients’ feedback about their home health care, and if they would recommend that agency to someone else.