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Behind the List with Laura Kerr of Human Touch Home Health'Trusted partner in health care with plans to expand'

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The health care industry is changing every day.

From new breakthroughs in technology to health care reform laws, it's hard to keep up with the newest trends and regulations.

The Greater Lehigh Valley has a strong reputation for its health care services, serving as one of the largest industry sectors in the region. There are many hospitals and medical practices throughout the area that provide an array of services to our communities.

Here to answer this week's “Behind the List” questions and shed light on rehabilitation services is Laura Kerr, administrator and director of nursing at Human Touch Home Health in Whitehall Township.

Lehigh Valley Business: How long has Human Touch Home Health been operating in the Greater Lehigh Valley and what are its primary services?

Laura Kerr: Human Touch Home Health was established in 2007 and has been licensed as a certified home health agency for 10 years covering Lehigh, Northampton, Upper Bucks and lower Carbon counties.

We are JCAHCO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) accredited and Medicare and Medicaid certified and accept most insurance and private pay.

Our skilled business line offers skilled nursing, physical, occupational and speech therapy, social work and home health aide visits. We have extensive experience in rehabilitation, disease management, intravenous infusion and wound care.

Human Touch Home Health received a deficiency-free Medicare survey in May of 2016 and has achieved a 4.0 star rating from CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services].

Our nonskilled business line provides home health aide or personal care assistants on an hourly basis for clients in Northampton and Lehigh counties. We accept both Lehigh and Northampton county waiver patients and private pay as well as long-term insurance as payment for these services.

Our clients receive services based on their needs with an individualized care plan and oversight monthly by a registered nurse, ensuring that any changes needed to the care plan, due to a client's change in condition, are met.

LVB: What have been some of the biggest challenges and opportunities that Human Touch Home Health has encountered throughout its years in business?

Kerr: The Greater Lehigh Valley has many great resources for clients to choose from, so making sure that clients, families, doctors and facilities have current information to make informed decisions can be challenging at times. Other challenges include regulatory changes and reduced payments from insurance and the federal government to provide more care for less dollars.

Despite dealing with these obstacles on a daily basis, we have succeeded and are committed to ensuring that the care we provide meets all the client's needs and ensures a positive outcome for all.

Opportunities come every day and have allowed us to grow and become a trusted partner in the health care continuum. Two years ago, we restructured our organization and have developed a health care team that has a wealth of experience in the home health care arena.

Thinking outside the box at times from a marketing perspective, as well as administratively, has created some partners in health care that allows seamless transitions for clients that previously might have fallen through the cracks.

Every new day brings new opportunities, and being open to them is what allows us to grow as an organization and as providers.

LVB: What advancements have been made in the physical rehabilitation field recently?

Kerr: Physical rehabilitation has always been a value-added service to clients who are recovering from general surgery, joint replacement surgery, stroke and general debility post-hospitalization, as well as management of progressive diseases such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and ALS [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis].

The goal of therapy in the home is to make the client more independent, allowing them to either progress to outpatient treatment or return to the same level of function as prior to the illness. Advancements in surgical techniques have enabled shorter recovery times and better outcomes.

Human Touch Home Health is one of the few agencies in the Lehigh Valley to offer vital stim therapy in the home. Vital stim treatment is used for clients that have swallowing difficulties, i.e. status post-stroke or Parkinson's disease.

In the past, the only way to get this was to go to outpatient or rehab after hospitalization. However, we have a certified speech therapist who can provide this therapy in the home until the patient is physically ready to return to an outpatient setting.

LVB: How does Human Touch Home Health directly stimulate the local economy?

Kerr: Human Touch Home Health stimulates the economy through two mechanisms: employment and reduced costs for care.

From an employment perspective, we offer per diem and full-time positions, and, as we grow, we will be able to employ additional people. Per diem employment offers the flexibility for which many health care providers are looking.

Home health care needs continue to grow as our population ages. Our goal is to help our clients live safely in their homes.

There are many studies that show the reduced costs from allowing people to stay in their home rather than going to short-term rehab facility, rehabilitation hospital or skilled care facilities.

Most of us want to remain at home, and our wide range of services and resources can allow most clients to stay at home – and families and physicians feel very comfortable that the needs of their loved one are being met.

Home Health is a significant partner in the health care continuum and reduces the cost of health care needs across the board. Enhanced communication with all the partners involved in the patient's care reduces the need for hospitalization.

LVB: What does the future look like for Human Touch Home Health? Does it have plans for growth in the region?

Kerr: We are very optimistic about the future of Human Touch Home Health. I believe we will continue to see advancements and growth in the home care arena.

With pay-for-performance initiatives becoming more prominent, the agencies that provide quality care and better outcomes will thrive in the health care continuum.

Public awareness and easy access to information via the internet will allow for more informed consumers. Agencies, like Human Touch, that strive for quality will succeed on multiple levels.

Human Touch Home Health has plans to open another office in the next year in Pennsylvania to cover the Philadelphia area and adjacent areas in Bucks and Montgomery counties.

We are very excited to be able to offer our services to another part of Pennsylvania and can't wait to be able to share our philosophy of care with another area.

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Christopher Holland

Christopher Holland

Christopher Holland is a researcher for Lehigh Valley Business and blogs on arts and entertainment in the region.

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