How Do We choose a Home Care Provider?

Finding the home care provider best suited for your needs requires research, but it is time well spent. Important factors include the quality of care, availability of needed services, personnel training and expertise, and coverage provided by the payor. Before starting a search, it is important to determine which types of services you need. You may wish to consult with your physician, a hospital discharge planner, or a social service organization such as an Area Agency on Aging, for assistance in evaluating your needs. Once you have completed this assessment, you will be able to identify the type of home care provider most appropriate to assist you.

Fortunately most communities have a variety of providers to choose from. To locate home care agencies in your area, please click the button on this website titled, "Find a Home Care Provider," which provides information about agencies that are members of the Illinois HomeCare Council. Your physician , discharge planner or social worker may also help you locate home care providers in your area.

Visiting the Illinois Department of Public Health's website or call the Illinois Department on Aging toll-free (1-800-252-8966) to find out about other options for home care if your loved one is 60 years of age or older.

Once you acquire the names of several agencies, you will want to learn more about their services and reputations. Following are some questions to ask home care providers and community leaders. Their insight will help you determine which agency is best for you or your loved one.

  • How long has the agency been serving the community?
  • Is the agency certified by Medicare? A Medicare-certified home care agency is one that has met federal minimum requirements for patient care and financial management and therefore can provide Medicare and sometimes Medicaid home health services. To determine the caliber of a Medicare-certified agency, you can review its Medicare Survey Report. Contact the Illinois Department of Public Health for assistance in obtaining this document. Keep in mind that an agency's decision not to become certified does not imply that it provides poor care. In many cases, these agencies adhere to their own set of standards, or those of an accrediting body. It is imperative that you consider all the circumstances surrounding an agency's home care services before making a final decision.
  • Is the agency licensed? Effective September 1, 2008, Illinois requires ALL home health, home nursing and home services agencies to be licensed to operate.
  • Is the agency accredited? Accreditation is a voluntary process conducted by nonprofit professional organizations. It signifies that the agency has met national industry standards. Agencies may be accredited by the Commission Health Accreditation Partner (CHAP), the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) and or American Commission for Healthcare (ACHC). Most agencies seek accreditation from the organization most applicable to their services.

The following list provides some additional information you should expect from the agency:

  • A brochure or other printed information that describes the services the agency provides, its non-discrimination policies and any special relationships with payers (e.g. is it enrolled with your managed care company, etc.)
  • A Patient's Bill of rights and Responsibilities
  • The agency should employ only licensed nurse and therapists and home health aides who are registered with the state.
  • The agency should carry malpractice coverage for its self and its workers
  • The family and the patient's physician should be included in the process of identifying the patient's needs and planning his care unless the patient specifies otherwise.
  • Written materials showing what types of services the patient will receive and how often should be provided to the patient
  • Aides should be supervised regularly by a nurse or therapist who oversees their care. Family members should be consulted about how things are going.
  • The agency should give the patient information about how to file a complaint with the agency and with the State Complaint Hotline
  • The patient should receive information in writing that identifies the agency's charges for the services received and any amount of financial liability the patient is responsible for.
  • Written materials describing what to do in an emergency should be provided, and a individualized emergency plan should be developed for each patient.
  • The agency should provide written materials describing how it ensures the confidentiality of patient information.