The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare a simple fact that many have been advocating for years: the importance of adequate in-home healthcare treatment options. For the elderly and high-risk, staying at home as much as possible is a priority.
However, many of the treatments they need are difficult or impossible to achieve at home, making venturing out to hospitals or other medical facilities regularly an unfortunate reality. The pandemic has also limited the amount of in-person contact these patients can have with physicians and other medical professionals, adding another layer of difficulty to in-home care.
With the population of adults ages 65 and older expected to nearly double by 2030, and 76% of adults over the age of 50 saying they want to “age in place” achieving long-term solutions for home healthcare is going to soon become imperative.
Thankfully, advances in medical technology are starting to transform home healthcare, enabling better treatment options and overall care. Harnessing the power of cutting-edge tech, like the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and more have made truly engaged, extensive in-home care a reality. A crucial component of healthcare’s digital transformation, tech-enabled home care will create better treatment realities, make life easier for patients and physicians alike, and save lives.
THE EVOLUTION OF HOME HEALTHCARE TECHNOLOGY
Like numerous other areas of medicine, technological advancements in-home care are completely changing how the industry operates. Technology is powering rapid innovation, leading to more efficient treatment and care, as well as driving down costs. New information technologies are helping to better capture and manage patient health data, use the data to create more impactful treatment plans, and integrate the data with that of larger facilities like hospitals and clinics. This is creating more extensive and holistic treatment realities for patients, driving efficiencies for providers.
Healthcare futurist Niels van Namen presents a particularly grim outlook on the current realities of our healthcare system. But, he goes on to expound on the potential of home healthcare technology to make medical care cheaper, safer, and a more accessible alternative to hospital stays.
“Patients often have to travel long distances to get to their nearest hospital, and access to hospital care is becoming more and more an issue in rural areas—in the US, but also in sparsely populated countries like Sweden.” van Namen says. “And even when hospitals are more abundant, typically the poor and the elderly have trouble getting care because they lack transportation that is convenient and affordable to them. And many people are avoiding hospital care altogether, and they miss getting proper treatment due to cost.”
In van Namen’s eyes, home care has the potential to alleviate the inequalities created by having to travel outside of the home to seek treatment and care. Powered by cutting-edge tech, home care is changing not just what types of treatments are available and can be achieved outside of clinical facilities, but who has access to these treatments.
EXAMPLES OF HOME HEALTHCARE TECHNOLOGY
Digital transformation is driving rapid technological advancement in the healthcare space. But this tech explosion is not just confined to hospitals, assisted living facilities, or other clinical environments. It’s leading to some cutting-edge solutions for use in the home as well. Let’s look at some of the key areas where technology is improving home-based care.
REMOTE PATIENT MONITORING
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices are non-invasive pieces of tech that gather, process, store, and share patient health information. Popular consumer “wearable” devices like the FitBit and Apple Watch fall under this category, but so do critical internet of medical things (IoMT) devices like heart monitors, glucose monitors, and blood pressure monitors.
RPM devices can help physicians more accurately monitor patient diseases and chronic conditions around the clock while patients are at home. Data gathered from these devices can be instrumental in improving treatment strategies and overall care. RPM devices help to enable a constant relationship between physicians and patients. These devices provide the data that populates intuitive dashboards, enabling physicians to engage with patient data in real time.
RPM technology has the potential to greatly improve the quality of care patients receive. Because RPM devices enable direct and timely access to physiologic data, physicians can develop more efficient treatment strategies that respond to patient conditions in real time. Given RPM’s game-changing nature, it’s no wonder that 68% of physicians intend to make use of the technology to treat patients in the future.
RPM also has a significant impact on preventative care. With access to real-time health data, patients at home can get a clear picture of their overall health, and track how they are performing against their short- and long-term healthcare goals. This insight can help elderly and high-risk patients avoid unnecessary ER or clinic visits, or dreaded hospital readmissions.
RPM encourages patients to become more accountable for their health, and as a result, more engaged in their treatment. RPM tools can work as part of larger treatment plans and practices to help improve care quality, reduce costs, and reduce the potential for hospital admission or other medical escalations.
Telemedicine refers to providing clinical services remotely over the internet using audio and video tools. Telemedicine connects patients directly with physicians and other medical personnel via mobile apps or video conferencing software.
Healthcare professionals have been providing advice and treatment over the phone for quite some time. But it wasn’t until widespread broadband internet access that conducting appointments using video conferencing technology became feasible. Today, telemedicine appointments are commonly used to treat non-emergency medical issues where an in-person examination is not required. Telemedicine is not intended to supplant in-person clinical visits, but rather to complement them, taking advantage of the convenience of remote treatment.
Convenience is at the heart of telemedicine’s value. It is an easy and cost-effective way to get timely care and treatment, without the need to physically visit a doctor’s office or other medical facilities. This makes it an ideal solution for the elderly and high-risk, especially during the current pandemic. In fact, there was a 154% increase in telemedicine visits during the last week of March 2020, compared to the same week in 2019.
Technological advancements have made telemedicine software platforms incredibly accessible and effective. Frequently, telemedicine software is bundled with medical practice management software, incorporating treatment, consultation, patient information management, planning, scheduling, and more capabilities into one holistic platform. Additionally, many individual telemedicine platforms seamlessly integrate with electronic health records and electronic medical records (EHR/EMR) platforms, making it easier to access patient medical histories for diagnostic and treatment purposes.
Leading telemedicine software providers like Doxy.me and Updox provide secure, HIPAA-compliant platforms for medical practices. These platforms help medical practices provide real-time remote treatment and care to patients, offering convenience, reducing the number of missed appointments, and improving overall patient engagement. Telemedicine software also serves as an effective foil to RPM technology, allowing physicians to use data gathered from RPM devices to have more production remote appointments and better diagnose and treat illnesses and ailments.
Telemedicine services help the high-risk, disabled, and elderly get quality care without having to travel. It helps doctors examine patients at all times of the day, providing real-time treatment impacts. Overall, it’s a valuable tool to increase patient engagement and deliver impactful care to those confined to the home.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)
Often touted as one of the most promising elements of complete digital transformation, AI is having a profound impact on the medical industry. It’s helping to develop new drugs and treatment options.
It’s helping patients to more effectively stick to treatment plans. It’s even assisting surgeons in the operating room. But AI also has the potential to drastically improve healthcare in the home.
AI-enabled chatbots and voice assistants help to curb social isolation for the elderly and high-risk confined to the home. Using natural language processing and conversational voice UI, these tools can provide companionship and support to isolated patients, while collecting insights on their emotional states and overall mental health.
AI technology powers virtual nurse assistants, tools designed to improve the quality of home care without human intervention. These assistants are available around the clock to help patients manage chronic conditions or illnesses from home. They can be automated to monitor a large group of patients, making sure they are feeling well, or can direct them to live medical services if need be. Virtual nurse assistants help increase patient engagement, facilitate improved communication between patients and providers, and reduce the sizable costs associated with around-the-clock in-person care.
IMPROVED ACCESS TO CARE
As the elderly population in the US increases, making quality, affordable care widely available will be critical. While nursing homes and assisted living facilities offer comprehensive on-site care, they can be costly—and do not afford the level of privacy or independence that many seniors desire. Delivering the same level of care to the growing population of older adults seeking to age in place should be the long-term goal.
The benefits of home healthcare are numerous. Quality care at home means hospitals experience fewer unnecessary ER visits and avoid readmissions—and the hefty Medicare penalties that accompany them. Families of seniors and other high-risk patients receiving in-home care get the peace of mind knowing that their loved ones are receiving treatment on par with that of live-in facilities, as well as a relief from shouldering the entire burden of care delivery.
And the patients themselves have more independence and greater mobility, with the privilege of receiving care and treatment in a familiar and comfortable environment.
MAKING TRANSFORMATIONAL HOME HEALTHCARE A REALITY
High-quality home healthcare is becoming a reality thanks to healthcare’s extensive digital transformation. Home care technologies and devices are becoming more and more prevalent, and as a result, care strategies and expectations from both physicians and the aging population are shifting. Technological advancements have allowed companies to design and implement home care solutions that could potentially enable the US’ growing elderly population to age in place with high-quality medical care.
As a truly innovative agency, Codal has designed and developed applications for a wide variety of sectors, and the healthcare industry is no exception. We’ve engineered web solutions for psychiatric care providers, athletic medical record companies, healthcare transportation services, and medical cosmetology companies.
Codal’s healthcare solutions prioritize compliance and security while striving to enhance clinical workflows and improve the patient experience. Our diverse portfolio of healthcare clients has not only provided us with different perspectives in the ever-shifting healthcare sector but also with the valuable experience to innovate.
Interested in learning how home patient care solutions can be implemented into your healthcare organization? Connect with Codal today.