Physician Spotlight: Dr. Jessica Embrescia, Allegheny Health Network
Dr. Jessica Embrescia, a SNFist with Allegheny Health Network (AHN), is passionate about providing specialized care to seniors. She began her work as a general internist with AHN in 2016 and transitioned to a dedicated SNFist in April 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a SNFist she works exclusively with patients who reside in skilled nursing facilities (SNF).
She was approached later that year to help develop AHN’s Home Recovery Care Plus (HRC Plus) program, a model that allows her to deliver SNF-level care to patients in the comfort and safety of their homes.
“After all the policy changes made to skilled nursing facilities, being able to provide patients with this alternative option was so rewarding,” Dr. Embrescia said. “Giving them the ability to heal and rehabilitate in an environment where they feel the most safe and comfortable is vital to their overall recovery.”
Highmark Health and AHN launched HRC Plus in partnership with Contessa in January of 2021. The model delivers all the essential elements of skilled nursing and rehabilitation care in the comfort of a patient’s home. Patients who qualify for the program are sent home with remote patient monitoring devices receiving telehealth consults and in-home visits from registered nurses, physical therapists and/or occupational therapists according to their personalized and patient-directed care plan. Recovery Care Coordinators (RCCs) continue monitoring the patient’s vitals, coordinating care and providing health education for the duration of 60 days.
The COVID-19 pandemic inflicted heavy demands on skilled nursing facilities imposing a multitude of challenges of which many felt the weight.
“I wouldn’t say I was skeptical because I believed it could be done, but I was also anticipating the challenges that lay ahead of us in those formulative stages and initial conversations. However, as we learned and prepared to implement program processes, we were excited to see the clear recovery advantages it would give our patients.”
Dr. Embrescia believes in HRC Plus for many reasons, but she said the level of confidence and empowerment patients feel by rehabilitating at home really stands out.
“When patients are placed in skilled nursing facilities, they are learning to rehabilitate daily living skills away from the place they are soon going to apply them, possibly creating the additional step of relearning these skills once they return home where there aren’t as many structural accommodations,” said Dr. Embrescia. “With HRC Plus, patients are able to apply these rehabilitation skills immediately, learning to navigate their homes alongside their therapists. Being at home, patients also have more control and ownership over their recovery process which we’ve seen results in the patient having more confidence and motivation.”
Dr. Embrescia recounted the beginning stages of the program and the strides they have made from their reluctancy to adopt telehealth tactics pre-pandemic to discharging patients from six hospitals who would otherwise have been placed in skilled nursing facilities.
“Because of this model we are able to cover so much more territory. Our team is dedicated to improving processes and ensuring that patients are not only receiving the best care possible, but that we are finding even better ways to streamline our care delivery as we grow. It feels good to be doing the work we’re doing.”