A lay-health worker is someone who has received some training to promote health or to carry out some health-care services and who acts as a link between formal health services and patients, especially those at high-risk. In the United States lay-health worker programs first emerged as part of the Great Society domestic policies in the 1960s.
Lay-health workers, who perform specific, delineated tasks, like assisting during medical appointments and providing access to transportation, can be deployed much faster than more highly trained health professionals. Often, they can improve patient experiences through culturally sensitive, community-based health services. They also serve as a resource for patients attempting to obtain health education or navigate the healthcare system.
Patients are uncertain and vulnerable when discharged after a long hospitalization. These patients shift from being dependent and complacent while hospitalized to having significant responsibilities, which can potentially affect their risks for readmission. Roughly 20% of all Medicare fee-for-service patients are readmitted within 30-days of hospital discharge, costing the healthcare system an estimated $17 billion annually. The majority of these readmissions are avoidable.
The aim of this study was to reduce 30-day hospital readmission rates in a community hospital in Kentucky using lay-health workers to assess and assist hospitalized high-risk patients. The study was conducted in St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead, KY. Hospitalized patients (men and women over 18 years old of any racial/ethnic group and admitting diagnosis) at high-risk of a 30-day readmission to the hospital were targeted for the study. This group was identified as high-risk given their medical history and health problems.