Not only is the Home Healthcare market growing in standard services of providing medical staff at home, it is also now growing up the value chain of providing Critical Care in the home environment. The benefits of such services are numerous: from being able to set up ICU facilities inclusive of relevant medical equipment to services of competent nursing and other staff. Today, a number of ailments that fall under the category of Critical Care are being treated at home.
For Critical Care to be implemented, it is imperative that various elements of technology are leveraged to successfully achieve the following:-
Positive patient experiences
Creating an environment for better outcomes of the treatment
Building efficiency in operation-intensive business to provide significant scaling up of the endeavor
While Information Technology is pervasive and ubiquitous in various fields and industries, there have also been a lot of advances in technology related to healthcare. Today, there are a number of devices that allow monitoring of the patient’s functions and emergencies and also integrate with IT devices such as mobile devices. They help to create a system where information can be captured in near real-time, assimilated and collated for distribution to the stake holders for appropriate actions. A few of such modern technologies that are making way in the Healthcare domain are as follows:-
ECG embedded in the smartphone case that helps interpret test results via an App and facilitates secured sharing of data with clinicians (NICE Evidence Review)
Tremor spoon for Parkinson’s incorporating sensors and data analytics on how Tremor characteristics and severity change over time
Smart Inhalers that sense the location and surrounding air providing insights into Asthma attacks
All of the above technologies help in monitoring various parameters as relevant to the patient so that timely intervention can be made for better outcomes.
In addition to the above, there are also various sensor-based devices in the market that detect situations in an ongoing treatment and emergencies, for e.g., detection of a fall along with the precise location. It was estimated in 2014 that remote patient monitoring technologies accounted for over $ 30 billion.
Other important aspects to note are that services being delivered at home for Critical Care are in remote places as compared to a centralized facility in a hospital. While Home Healthcare increases the focus on the patient, it has been recognized that monitoring of services at these remote locations can be achieved through implementation of technologies. Data can flow through a network connecting these remote locations to hubs of centralized facilities where patient specific dashboards can be created and shared with relevant stakeholders in the ecosystem. The most effective model for delivering Critical Care at home is an integrated approach that involves the hospital, physician/the treating doctor, nursing and care staff at home and the family members of the patient.
With the use of inter-operable technologies, only bytes of relevant information can be shared with the stakeholders. It is well known that physicians and treating doctors lead very busy lives and do not have sufficient time to browse through mounds of data in reports.This integrated approach also allows for instant communication between the treating doctor and the nursing staff at home, resulting in better outcomes for the patient. Therefore, a well-engineered system that combines Telehealth and Mobile-health will create a big impact in delivering streamlined Critical Care at home.
Home Healthcare is also very effective for treatment of chronic diseases like Diabetes, Hypertension, Congestive Heart failure, COPD and Fractures to name a few. Use of Telehealth can significantly reduce admissions and re-admissions to the hospital and at the same time at a much lower cost. For E.g. Monitoring weight of a patient with a condition of Congestive Health Failure can alert clinicians to eminent worsening of condition so that appropriate and effective action can be taken in time. Usage of technologies in an integrated manner allows for ‘evidence based medical care’ that helps in aligning staff, standardization of core processes around clinical best practices and therefore, implementation of focused training for clinicians around those processes.
Technology will play a pivotal role in the implementation and growth of Critical Care at home. There are already technologies available that provide monitors that are internet enabled and when combined with mobile and telemedicine can provide an effective framework for Critical Care at home.
Social media is also playing an important role in Home Healthcare. According to Pew Research, 46% of seniors who go online also use social media. This has spurred growth of some private social networks such as efamily and Family Crossings that allow social interaction and information sharing over the internet.
With patients getting more involved and taking charge of their healthcare needs, the market for Critical Care at home is poised for rapid growth. This will positively allow care to be delivered at home, with grace and dignity, apart from the economic benefit and ripple effect on the family and caregivers.
Author is Founder of CCU