February 17, 2010

Healthcare Systems to offer visiting nurse services for Medicare patients

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

When most people need medical attention, they make an appointment and go to the clinic. However, for some people, it’s not always that simple because they aren’t able to get themselves to the clinic when needed. McKenzie County Healthcare Systems is hopeful its new program will change that.
In an effort to bring healthcare to all of McKenzie County, the McKenzie County Healthcare Systems has added visiting nurse services. Beginning March 1, visiting nurse services will be available for Medicare clients throughout the county.
“McKenzie County is a very large and remote area,” says Marcy Hilleren, McKenzie County Healthcare Systems visiting nurse. “There are a lot of people who need nursing care, but they aren’t able to get themselves into Watford City. That’s where the visiting nurse program comes in.”
This service will be available to anyone with Medicare who is homebound and who requires some type of skilled service. This service can be any type of skilled nursing care, including venipuncture for lab testing. Visiting nurse services are similar to the home health services offered in the past, but with different reimbursement guidelines. “Unfortunately, visiting nurse services do not include physical therapists or speech therapists,” comments Hilleren. “A nurse cannot visit for the sole purpose of providing personal care if no skilled service is required. Anyone who thinks they may qualify for visiting nurse services can talk with their provider to find out if they qualify.”
Dan Kelly, McKenzie County Healthcare Systems CEO, began the process to procure visiting nurse services for the area over a year ago, because he could clearly see a need for the service in the community. A few residents of the county were able to receive home health services from other agencies in the area, but due to limited reimbursement and high travel costs, these agencies have been unable to provide adequate service to the entire county.
“Rural Americans deserve the same access to health care that urban Americans have,” states Kelly. “McKenzie County Healthcare Systems is constantly striving to provide quality healthcare options that address the full spectrum of health issues.”
In October Hilleren, a registered nurse, was hired to continue the process and work as the county’s visiting nurse.
“It’s exciting to be back in the county and providing a needed service,” states Hilleren. “Home care is such a positive aspect of healing, especially in this day and age when people often do not have the option of staying in the hospital until they are completely well. Most people seem to feel more secure knowing that a nurse will visit at least once a week to check on them.”
Studies have shown that people actually recover faster at home, but often the care they need is beyond their capabilities. Visiting nurses can provide additional training as well as skilled services until a patient or caregiver is able to provide adequate care. Most clients need nursing care for two months or less, but occasionally a client will require ongoing intermittent visits. 
While the visiting nurse component is not new, there are only a few such services operating in the state.
“The visiting nurse program is a lot like Home Health Care, except that it is much more cost-effective in this area than Home Health Care,” adds Hilleren. “The problem with Home Health Care is that the pay to providers isn’t enough to cover travel to remote areas like we see in McKenzie County.”
People who have further questions about visiting nurse services are encouraged to call the clinic at (701) 842-3771 or contact Hilleren at (701) 842-7155.