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Improving the odds of recovery: Study shows that including family in the care of hospitalized patients improves healing

Including family members in the care of hospitalized patients improves healing and lessens re-admission rates, suggests a new study published in the medical journal CHEST.

The study was conducted by researchers from Intermountain Healthcare who led a voluntary program called Partners in Healing that allowed family members of hospitalized patients to take part in their care. In the program, family members helped with basic care for their loved ones. Intermountain Healthcare spearheaded the nine-year long program in seven short-term care units.

The program enabled both the patient and family member to have more control over their care activities, instead of following a schedule set by the nurse or patient care tech. This also enhanced the communication between the family and the staff.

Based on a sample of 200 matched pairs of patients, the researchers compared adult heart surgery patients at Intermountain Medical Center whose families took part in the program with those whose relatives did not. They analyzed 30-day all-cause re-admissions, 30-day all-cause mortality, length of stay, and the number of emergency room visits. Most of the family members who participated also provided a feedback survey.

“The vast majority of families like to have something to do and they like to participate in patient care. They’re often the most motivated member of the care team,” said Michelle Van De Graaff, of Intermountain Medical Center, who created and directed the program as part of the study.

In the study, the researchers found that the 30-day re-admission rate was 65 percent lower for patients whose families took part in the program. In addition, it was revealed that patients benefited from someone who knew them personally. This resulted in the decreased rate of re-admissions after patients were discharged from the hospital.

Moreover, participant feedback revealed that 92 percent of the patients said the program improved the transition from hospital care to home care. Furthermore, 94 percent reported that they would highly suggest the program to other families. The researchers also identified four themes in a feedback survey, which included: family members praised the program and expressed gratitude; family members gained relevant caregiving skills; family members felt empowered, included to the care team, and confident; and family members thought that the program should be available to all families and in all phases of hospitalization.

The program is the first in the field which proved that including families as clinical care partners during hospitalization may reduce re-admission.

Parents help shorten hospital admission for sick children

Parents are typically excluded from the treatment process when their children get hospitalized. However, a new study suggests that including parents in the management of their sick children can speed up the recovery process. The study involved about 2,000 children who were born prematurely and were admitted at intensive care units (ICUs) in selected health facilities.

Researchers of the study discovered that actively including parents in the care of their newborns enhanced the health of premature babies in ICUs. The researchers found the parents’ involvement in feeding their babies, giving them oral medicines, taking their temperature, and participating in ward rounds sped up the recovery.

The study showed that premature babies who received an integrated family care program had improved weight gain and better breast feeding rates which typically quickens recovery processes, in comparison with neonates given standard care. Moreover, their parents experienced less stress and anxiety levels, which allowed them to have a better bond with their sick children. All these positive effects are also linked to positive brain development in children.

“This suggests that integrating parents into the care of infants at this early stage could potentially have longer-term benefits,” said Karel O’Brien, lead author of the study.

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