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Home healthcare: India’s new normal

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Nitin Nag, Regional Director (South & West), Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Bengaluru explains why the pandemic has proven itself as a health care innovation catalyst, reinforcing the benefits and growth potential of the home health care industry

The ongoing pandemic has shifted healthcare in many ways. There has been a continues need throughout the region and the world, to implement immediate and accessible healthcare especially digital solutions. Virtual Health has been a game changer as we saw advances in the reach and speed of service delivery.  The contagious nature of the virus and the “stay at home” message meant that the healthcare fraternity had to find new ways to deliver healthcare services. All this led to the rise and growth of telemedicine and home healthcare services in India.

The Indian home healthcare market sized $5 billion in 2019 is expected to grow four times to $20 billion by 2027. Pre-COVID-19 factors that were driving this kind of health for all were post-surgical recuperation at home, improvement of remote monitoring tools, increasing demand for remote primary care through telemedicine platforms and increasing geriatric population. However the pandemic triggered the need for services that are accessible anytime, anywhere which includes 24/7 digital access to primary care physicians and specialists, reduced ER visits- remote care from your own home, while avoiding the waiting room and less time spent away from work or school, less transportation.  As we establish the new normal post-crisis, governments along with the private sector is increasingly working towards the need to establish the role of home care.

New normal: Demand for remote / home health

The new normal is that demand for remote / home health solutions ranging from telemedicine, home lab, home pharma and home health monitoring at an all-time high. While capability to offer remote / home health services existed, the consumer dynamic has changed significantly post COVID-19. Tendency to avoid a hospital visit unless it is mandatory is very high making home health almost an obvious need.

Look at some recent trends to illustrate the change in market dynamics

  • Some tele consult platforms saw 500 per cent jump in transaction volumes
  • More than 60 per cent of users consuming remote services (consult / lab / pharma) post COVID-19 were first time users
  • Consumer pattern changes have driven pure play healthcare players to either introduce or strengthen up their home services portfolio
  • Most colleagues I speak to in healthcare services (hospitals) are considering home health as a strategic play in near (< six months) to mid-term (< 18 months). Ones who aren’t are significantly cash strapped which is preventing them from it

Government of India has realised the changing dynamic and released telemedicine guidelines in March, 2020. Their activism in controlling spiralling remote COVID-19 care prices by service providers earlier this year conveys they are watching the space keenly albeit still through the COVID-19 prism.

Way forward

In this fast evolving time post COVID-19, we have seen tremendous expansion of portfolio of services of almost all companies. Over time, we will see any service that doesn’t need a hospital bed to be occupied will be delivered out of homes. Our data shows that during COVID-19 new services like paediatric vaccine, flu vaccine, periodic health monitoring check-ups all received a boost on home services model. Home vaccination has been one of the areas which has picked up significantly especially in the areas of maternal and child healthcare.

The most obvious benefit of getting vaccination at home is being able to get the services of doctor or nurse at the comfort of your home, rather than having to travel all the way to the hospital and wait for your turn. In fact many patients with mild symptoms actually recovered at their residences under constant medical supervision and nursing care with the availability of home care across industries.

Home healthcare, along with remote monitoring and tele-health technologies, has a critical role to play in out-of-hospital care delivery. There is an influx of medical devices that is aiding this transition as well. There is a device for monitoring foetal heart rate for mothers at home and alert doctors if necessary which almost obviates unnecessary hospital visit for antenatal mothers. We will see many more of these in days ahead.

In my view, the pandemic has clearly proven itself as a health care innovation catalyst, reinforcing the benefits and growth potential of the home health care industry.  Healthcare solutions and services need to continue to transform and adapt to new challenges and this can be done by implementing new technologies such as homecare and teleconsultation.

Considering the poor doctor to patient ratio (1:1500) and even worse patient to hospital bed ratio, such developments are good for the industry, and we need to continue to build on such delivery models that are non-hospital based.

We were heading in this direction. With the limited healthcare infrastructure and resources, home healthcare will help to address a portion of the present healthcare requirement. From changing payment models and new policy levers, to increased use and adoption of technology in the space, the momentum over the past few months is promising, and it will be worth if sectors across continue to  invest in  technology for the home which will be really accelerating growth across  the spectrum.

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