Continuum of Care Definitions

The continuum of care are the different settings and types of care that a person might receive to deal with illness or the complications of an illness. Descriptions of each level and the different facilities that provide each type of care are outlined below.

Low Level

Home health provider: An agency that provides basic health care services in the home and usually have to be ordered by a physician. These services can include a range of services including wound care, physical therapy, and IV infusion therapy (such as chemotherapy) to name a few. Home health services are usually covered by health insurance (including Medicare) and worker’s compensation insurance, though sometimes prior approval or limitations of service may apply.

Private duty home care provider: An agency which provides non-medical services in the home. These services can include a range of services such as help with bathing and dressing, light meal preparation, and non-emergency transportation. These services are not traditionally covered by insurance plans. Private duty providers are often standalone organizations, though some home health agencies may offer private duty services.

Home medical equipment provider: Sometimes referred to a durable medical equipment provider, this is an agency that sets up and maintains medical equipment used at home and the equipment usually has to be ordered by a health care provider. Common types of home medical equipment include oxygen machines and hospital beds. Home medical equipment providers are often standalone organizations, though some home health agencies may offer medical equipment services.

High Level

Skilled nursing facility: Also known as a long-term care facility, these are facilities that provides 24-hour care. They are commonly used for rehabilitation after a hospital stay or as permanent residences for those with chronic conditions needing constant access to care.

Memory care: Care for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (a form of dementia) that usually takes place in a secure wing for a skilled nursing facility. The facility is secure since wandering is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s.

Outpatient surgical center: Also known as an ambulatory surgical center. These are facilities where individuals have minor procedures or surgeries and are released the same day. Unlike hospitals, they do not have the capacity to keep a patient for a period of more than a few hours after performing a procedure.

Hospital: Or an acute care center, this is a facility that offers the highest level of care. While hospital visits are generally only few days, under certain circumstances individuals can stay for extended periods. Depending on the size of the hospital, services can include emergency room access, surgeries, physical therapy, imaging, intensive care, and much more. Some doctor’s (often specialists) will even have their patient office visits in a hospital.

Medium Level

Assisted living facilities: A residence, usually rented, with access to health care and private duty services. Some level of care (such as laundry or meals) is often included in the rent. These facilities are found both as standalone facilities and paired with skilled nursing facilities.

Clinical office setting: Typically known as a doctor’s office, office settings can provide can broad range of services from routine check-ups to physical therapy, imaging, or urgent care.

Varying Levels

Hospice provider: These are health care providers that offer pain management (or palliative care) and end-of-life care.  In addition to traditional health care, hospice also provides emotional support for the family and patient. Hospice services can be provided in numerous settings such as skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, or dedicated hospices, but is most often done in the home. Most home health agencies either offer hospice services or work closely with a hospice agency.

Contact Us

Iowa Alliance in Home Care | 100 E. Grand Ave, Suite 118, Des Moines, IA 50309 | Phone: (515) 282-3965 |