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Aurora VNA 2011 Annual Report

When purpose works...

Health care quality improves
Costs are reduced and care is more affordable
The patient experience improves

Health care quality improves

Home health care is an important part of our integrated delivery system. For decades, the Aurora VNA has provided a wide variety of home care services including nursing, home medical equipment, infusion therapy, hospice and much more. In 2011, like always, we focused on providing excellent service and the highest standards of care.

  • In 2011, the Aurora VNA's care was recognized by OCS HomeCare and DecisionHealth, which use publicly reported data to create the HomeCare Elite list of the most successful agencies in the United States. The criteria for being awarded HomeCare Elite status are based on measurements that include quality and financial performance. The Aurora VNA’s outcomes were compared with other organizations in Wisconsin and throughout the country.
  • Through an integrated patient electronic health record system that connects our hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and home health staff, Aurora VNA caregivers are able to improve care coordination and have more time with the patient. Less time on the computer enables home health aides and nurses to provide patients and families with more care and attention. And our patients are benefiting from those efforts with fewer hospital readmissions.
  • We're caring for patients of all ages, including high-risk newborns. The number of home care patients we serve continues to increase each year. Of all patients cared for in the last year, 79 percent did not require any type of hospitalization while receiving Aurora VNA services and 76 percent remained in their homes when our services were finished; both of these outcomes rank in the top 20% of the nation.

Costs are reduced and care is more affordable

In today's health care environment of rapid change, the importance of developing value added partnerships is one important way to improve care and lower costs. The Aurora VNA is now the preferred partner for Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. We are providing seamless care coordination and in-home care to chronically ill and injured children and families.

  • One challenge in 2011, proved how important partnerships can be to our youngest patients and their families. Children's Hospital cares for many blood and marrow transplant and oncology patients from northern Illinois. After treatment, many of the patients are not well enough to return home, but not sick enough to remain in the hospital. To address this challenge, the Aurora VNA helped arrange a joint venture with an Illinois company to enable Illinois Medicaid patients to receive critical home health care near Children's Hospital. Children's Hospital can now refer patients to the Aurora VNA to coordinate home services so patients and their families can stay at the nearby Ronald McDonald House. The unique partnership helps young patients begin their recuperative journey in a more comfortable setting outside the hospital.
  • In another case, the Aurora VNA worked with a vendor to ensure that a pediatric patient who was being discharged from Children's Hospital was able to receive a portable oxygen unit that was critical to help continue recovery at home.

Managing the costs of medication has provided another opportunity to reduce expenses.

  • Hospice patients benefit from a wide variety of medications that provide comfort and assist in pain management. It can be an expensive challenge to have all of the medication available for the varying needs of a patient’s end-of-life journey. To do so would mean ordering medications that may never be utilized. Today, we have 24/7 access to hospice medications – eliminating the need to order many different medications far in advance. A same-day delivery leads to cost savings and improved patient care.
  • Technology now provides our caregivers easier access to information that helps them educate patients on the purposes of their medication. That leads to patients taking their medication regularly and reduces costly complications, such as hospital readmissions that can result when medication is skipped or taken incorrectly.

The patient experience improves

Phil Procter credits the Aurora VNA for helping him and his wife, Gretchen, handle the stresses of her chronic illness and enable them to continue living at home.

We believe every patient deserves an experience that reflects the best care possible. Every day, Aurora VNA caregivers are touching the lives of patients in ways that are appreciated and recognized by those who depend on us for their care.

It may be as simple as how our caregivers interact with patients. One Grafton patient took the time to send a note complimenting two caregivers:

"Mike, who answers the phones, is very friendly and very helpful."

Steve didn’t just deliver a new part for home health equipment but "he also is very friendly and took time to explain everything to me."

Sometimes our time with a patient is limited – but it can be profound. One patient wrote about her care from an Aurora VNA nurse, physical therapist and occupational therapist:

"I simply cannot imagine how, without the expert aid of these three wonderful professionals, I could have made the transition from a weak, pained, still somewhat disoriented and complicated new discharge, to the almost completely self-sufficient, at-home recuperating person I now have become."

In other instances, the care experience is just as important to the person who is caring for a spouse. Phil Procter’s wife, Gretchen (pictured right), is living with multiple sclerosis. Aurora VNA provides the therapy and other support that she needs to continue living at home. During the Aurora VNA visits, Phil gets a much-needed respite. He is able to leave the house and have a break that is so important to someone who is a full-time caregiver.

Even at the end of life, our purpose is working. We received a note from the son of an Aurora VNA Zilber Family Hospice patient. Here is a portion of his thank you note to the hospice staff:

"I am sitting next to my mother as she has a life expectancy of "hours to days." There is no cushion to a blow like this, but I cannot say enough about the care at this facility.

On the first afternoon here, a doctor came in. I would have been fine if the doctor came in with a clipboard and left. Instead, he came in and wanted to know about my Mom.

I couldn’t list all of the nurses and staff, the cook included, who have gone above and beyond. I am from Philadelphia, so this has literally become my Milwaukee home. Small things like comfortable chairs, a hot shower, good inexpensive cafe food and birds at the feeder make immeasurable differences.

There will be no happy ending here, but she is comfortable. She is peaceful. I cannot express how important it is to know that she is not suffering, and is cared for around the clock.

I have also come to see that although my momma is the patient here, in many ways, we are the ones being attended to. The care does not just go to the patient, but also to my family and me."

When our purpose works - the patient and family experience is better.