Older man and daughter do a video call with doctor
Credit: Kiwis/Getty Images

The pandemic laid bare many weaknesses of the American healthcare system, according to Cheryl Dalton-Norman, a nurse and co-founder of Conduit Health Partners, which works with health systems, health plans, employers and others to improve care and access for their patients and employees. A positive development has been the care paradigm shifting from the hospital to hospital-at-home. When care is centered around the patient and their needs, patients are able to take a more proactive role in their own health from the comfort of their own home, she said .

“I don’t think our patients, our community members, are willing to go back to business as usual,” Dalton-Norman said to McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. “There will always be a need for acute hospital care, all the things that require intensive care or hands-on care. I think forward-thinking health systems are going to be saying, ‘How do we make this an exceptional experience?’ and consider the family in that acute care setting. How do we build and make things so people don’t have to struggle to get the care that they need?” 

Through hospital-at-home, home care may help free up congested hospital wings, but it also faces major challenges of its own, namely a workforce shortage. While it is often seen as purposeful work, nursing is often a stressful career given its unique challenges. This makes a manageable work-life balance more or less mandatory. 

“I have worked with nurses in my career, who would work seven days a week, literally never turned down a shift,” said Dalton-Norman. “So at some point, it is an individual professional’s responsibility to say ‘When am I hitting the wall?’ My care will suffer if I have not taken care of myself.”

Dalton-Norman believes that hospital-at-home technology will play a major role in helping nurses avoid hitting that “wall.” Some current tech even allows them to literally bypass walls to provide care. 

“A lot of things can be done by virtual nursing support to support the clinician at the bedside,” Dalton-Norman said. “And what we find at Conduit is that we have a robust pipeline of nurses who are interested in having the opportunity to do virtual nursing. That’s the beautiful thing about nursing; there are so many different ways you can deliver care.”

However, this high quality care may be hard to access in certain parts of the country. That is why Dalton-Norman has worked to form partnerships with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) across the nation. FQHCs are federally funded nonprofit health centers, or clinics, that care for traditionally underserved populations. Conduit recently began providing 24/7 nurse triage services for FQHCs in four different states beginning in May. 

“Health systems and partners like Conduit have to be innovative together and we have to be willing to try things and do things differently,” said Dalton-Norman. “The same old, same old, is not going to get us where we need to be and it’s not going to meet the acute demands of the community. People want help right now; they don’t want help an hour from now.”

Home Sweet Home is a feature appearing Mondays in McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. The story focuses on a heartwarming, entertaining or quirky happening affecting the world of home care. If you have a topic that might be worthy of the spotlight in Home Sweet Home, please email Special Projects Coordinator Foster Stubbs at [email protected].