Outpatient therapy delivered in the home setting provides convenience and comfort to patients. No wonder this sector of rehabilitation services (physical/occupational therapy and speech-language pathology) continues to grow. This article is the second in a series where we put the spotlight on in-home outpatient therapy. Here we cover how functional and preventative health are core concepts of home-based outpatient rehabilitation.
[Read the first article of this series here: How Outpatient Rehab Therapy Became Available in the Home Setting]
Therapy In the Home Setting Continues to Grow
The past decade in New York City has seen the growing advent of this new in-home service delivery model for all outpatient rehab therapies (occupational, speech, and physical), and its appeal is easy to see. First and foremost, the concept behind an in-home outpatient therapy service is based on resolving the issue of servicing individuals who need the care but are unable to or have difficulty with travel to a clinic for services. Many New York City in-home outpatient therapy practices, however, looked beyond this issue of physical accessibility, and even the focus on personal convenience and comfort, to position themselves as forward drivers in the larger, developing healthcare conversation on a preventive approach to patient care.
As in-home outpatient therapy practices increasingly came to dot New York City, this also paralleled a growing shift within the medical community that saw a movement away from a historically curative approach to medical care and disease management toward one of proactive, preventive care. More and more, healthcare providers are taking aim to prevent illness and injury rather than merely curing an already present condition, and we’re seeing the in-home outpatient service delivery model align with this same approach: in-home outpatient rehab therapy companies in New York City (primarily focused on older adults) premise their philosophy of care on the principle of improving and maintaining functional capacity as a way to prevent the risk of injury and to ward off functional decline associated with aging.
Although preventive care is a foundational element of practice for rehab therapy disciplines and the idea is not necessarily a new one in the field, it remains important that rehab therapy as a whole maintains and increases its visibility in this current healthcare movement towards illness and disease prevention.
More than a shift in the patient care and clinical practices of primary care providers, a growing focus on preventive healthcare is also more broadly a public health consideration with the potential to significantly impact the health attitudes and behaviors of entire communities. This can lead to a wide scale result of healthier lifestyles and improved quality of life being the norm makes the success of this developmental shift in healthcare necessary.
Because rehab therapy is, again, naturally inclined towards preventive care, we as rehab professionals have a great opportunity (and responsibility) to uphold our role in this movement, and the growing norm of in-home outpatient therapy services primes us to do so.
The Growing Spotlight on Functional Health
In demonstrating that rehab therapy services are key to ensuring seniors are able to safely remain independent and continue residing in their homes avoiding institutional care, in-home outpatient therapy practices naturally promote the need for rehab therapy for the older adult population. This is especially imperative to both the future direction of healthcare and the viability of our rehab profession at a time of increasing government cuts to Medicare programs and restrictive private payer guidelines that continue to question the medical necessity of rehab therapy services.
While promoting rehab therapy is important, there are even more implications of the now presence of in-home outpatient rehab therapy practices. Rehab therapy’s significance in helping older adults remain mobile and independent emphasizes the notion of “functional health” and being “functionally fit” where being functional equates to one’s ability to safely (and as independently as possible) perform those everyday activities particularly relevant to his or her lifestyle. Historically, physical health was regarded as the sole variable defining healthcare (its purpose, foundation, goals, and practice). Though mental health gained rightful recognition as another essential component of an individual’s overall state of health, the idea of functional health has not been considered with parity.
[Read also: The Distinction Between Key Rehabilitation Providers and Their Roles in SNF vs Homecare Settings]
Within this context of functional health being under-recognized, and oftentimes undervalued – as a result, this new delivery model of outpatient rehab therapy pushes the importance of functional health into the foreground, urging the idea that, alongside physical and mental health, being functionally healthy brings the entire continuum of healthcare full circle.
A New Wave of Outpatient Rehab Therapy
A number of in-home outpatient rehab therapy companies in New York City have now been in practice for upwards of five to ten, and even ten plus years. This figure slowly continues to rise, which is an indication that rehab therapists are also in support of this growing area of practice.
While many outpatient therapy clinics continue to focus primarily on restoring functional abilities lost due to injuries and illnesses, i.e., assuming a curative approach to care, others provide holistic outpatient therapy services to improve quality of life and help prevent functional decline.
In-home outpatient therapy could gain even greater traction in time as the aging population steadily multiplies and people catch on to the comfort of convenience, privacy, and highly individualized attention. Such a trend will inevitably beg the question of other ways rehab therapy can provide outpatient services and the future will see that exactly as social and economic conditions are sure to change yet again.
Given the creativity and resourcefulness of rehab therapists, the answer, I’m sure, will be interesting to say the least and exciting and ingenious at best.