Blessing Home Care program helps COPD patients avoid readmission

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 27, 2015 12:01 am
QUINCY -- Cathy Hilgenbrinck said there is no big secret why a Blessing Home Care program targeting Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients has been successful.

"People are willing to learn," she said. "They have really responded and are appreciative."

The bottom line is the new program, which debuted in October, is helping COPD patients stay out of the hospital.

During that first month, Blessing Home Care saw its COPD readmission rate cut in half, falling to 11 percent. Readmission is defined as a patient reentering the hospital for care of the same condition within 30 days of their discharge from the hospital.

"We are seeing the patients engaged, helping take control (of their situation)," said Hilgenbrinck, a registered nurse and director of Blessing Home Care.

COPD is a major cause of disability and the third-leading cause of death in the United States. COPD is an umbrella term used to describe several irreversible lung diseases, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD makes it difficult to breathe because air does not flow easily out of the lungs. Because of this, carbon dioxide, normally expelled from the body by exhaling, builds up. That can lead to life-threatening conditions requiring hospitalization.

Hilgenbrinck worked with her team to develop a 50-page COPD patient education booklet. Members of the Blessing Home Care team caring for a COPD patient carefully review with the patient the sections of the book pertinent to their care.

A key element of the enhanced education program is completion of a daily self-assessment. For the first 30 days of home care, COPD patients receive a phone call from a Blessing Home Care staff member and together they complete the self-assessment. The results are entered into the Blessing Home Care computer system for tracking and trending.

For example, smoking is a major contributor to COPD, and the adult smoking rate in Adams County is 33 percent, nearly twice as high as the state average.

"The region's at high risk for COPD and we're trying to get out ahead of it," Hilgenbrinck said. "It's a program that seems to be working."

The self-assessment asks if the patient is experiencing more shortness of breath than usual, if they are coughing more than usual, if their sleep is being affected by their COPD, for a description of their energy level, if they are having chest discomfort or tightness, and if their activities are being limited by breathing problems. The self-assessment takes approximately five minutes to complete.

"This daily process allows a patient to develop self-management techniques," Hilgenbrinck said. "They grow in awareness of their condition, allowing them to pick up signs of a problem sooner and increasing the likelihood they can avoid hospitalization."

Even if readmission is necessary, the information gathered through self-assessment is valuable. It helps the patient's caregivers better identify and address the triggers that led to the need for hospital care.

Blessing Home Care serves West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri. A doctor's order is required for Blessing Home Care services.

For more information about the COPD program, call 217-223-8400, ext. 4910, or visit

Sign up for Email Alerts