TCMH swing bed program can decrease long-term recovery time

“Our patients need to know that we have swing beds available for their long-term recovery,” Dr. Cory Offutt, physician at the Texas County Memorial Hospital Medical Complex said.

In Offutt’s work as a board certified family medicine physician, he has seen many patients leave a large hospital where they received major medical care and return home before they were ready to be at home on their own.

“Sometimes patients are discharged to receive care at home, but the patient needs specialized care that the family caregiver isn’t equipped to provide,” Offutt said, noting that these patients are at a higher risk for falls or other complications that can send the patient to the emergency room or for additional hospitalized care.

“Just because a patient is ready to go home doesn’t mean that home is the best place for the patient,”

Offutt explained. Offutt routinely educates patients and their family members about the TCMH swing bed program which allows patients that are recovering from a surgery, stroke, major accident, or other recent hospitalization to receive additional recovery care without being far from home.

“Our swing bed program at TCMH is better for the patient and for their family,” Offutt explained. “Utilizing the program may prevent a patient from returning quickly to the hospital.”

Offutt believes that patients recover more quickly and receive better recovery care under the guidance of a healthcare team in a hospital swing bed program.

Becky Scott, utilization review nurse at TCMH, works with patients that are admitted into the hospital’s swing bed program. Scott is also responsible for making sure that potential swing bed patients meet the criteria for admission to the swing bed program.

“Swing bed patients must have three days of acute care in a hospital in the past 30 days,” Scott said.

Swing bed patients also require some type of “skilled service” while in the hospital. Scott described a few skilled services such as physical therapy, speech therapy, wound care, respiratory therapy or intravenous therapy.

The vast majority of swing bed patients at TCMH are Medicare recipients, but some patients utilize another form of commercial private insurance or are self-pay patients. Medicare replacement plans do require pre-authorization before patients are admitted to the swing bed program.

Medicare provides 100 percent coverage for the first 20 days of swing bed care.

“At TCMH about half of our swing bed patients have received hospital care here in Houston,” Scott said, “And half come from other hospitals in places like Springfield or St. Louis.”

Scott works closely with the social worker that handles patients already at TCMH or social workers from another facility.

In the case of patients that are not already at TCMH, the hospital social worker from the other facility and the patient or the patient’s family members determine if swing bed care is needed, and the patient’s doctor must make contact with patient’s primary care provider to set up swing bed care. If the primary care provider is not on the TCMH medical staff, the patient is assigned to the TCMH physician that is on call for patients that do not have a primary care provider that is on staff at TCMH.

Scott likes to talk with the patient or the patient’s family members before the patient arrives at TCMH. “I like to explain to them what to expect from swing bed care before they get here,” Scott said.

While in swing bed care, the patient’s physician sees the patient once a week or more frequently if needed. Regular meals and medications are provided to the patient as well as any required therapeutic services.

“Although patients don’t see their doctor every day like they did when they were initially hospitalized, they can rest assured that their doctor is working closely with the entire hospital care team,” Scott said.

TCMH swing bed patients have access to 24/7 nursing care. Certified nurse aides work closely with swing bed patients as they recover and ready themselves for their return home or to a long-term care facility.

“Most of our swing bed patients are here 20 days or less,” Scott explained.

Occasionally swing bed care extends beyond 20 days. For Medicare patients staying over 20 days, 80 percent of the cost of swing bed care is covered by Medicare, and co-insurance, if available, will pick up the remaining cost of care. Other private insurance companies evaluate patient need for swing bed care on a weekly basis.

Angie Gimpel, a social worker at TCMH, works closely with patients in the swing bed program. She assists them, if needed, in obtaining home health care or transitioning to a long term care facility after leaving TCMH.

TCMH Auxiliary volunteers and Youth Ambassador volunteers also regularly visit swing bed patients to talk with, to read to or to provide other interactive activities with swing bed patients.

Scott noted that she regularly talks with patients and their family members, explaining swing bed services at TCMH.

“Sometimes patients have to tell their provider that they are interested in swing bed care,” Scott said. “If a patient is at a larger hospital that has its own swing bed program, the patient may have to tell their physician they would like to utilize swing bed care in Houston at TCMH.”

Many area residents that require additional care after hospitalization choose the TCMH swing bed program because it is close to home.

“When our patients are able to easily see friends and family it helps with their recovery,” Scott said.

For additional information about the TCMH swing bed program, Scott can be reached by phone at 417-967-3311, ext. 4178.

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