Earlier home healthcare was unorganised and run by bureaus with lack of quality control and customer-centricity. But Dr Sweta Choudhary, Head – Medical Products & Services, Nightingales Home Health Services explains how the scenario has changed with the home healthcare sector becoming organised and institutionalised with the advent of trusted players
The pandemic has made us adapt to newer ways of doing things. Many things that were hitherto thought not possible or not the first option are now being seen as normal and comfortable. We have graciously accepted and adjusted to the new normal…be it regular use of mask and sanitizer or avoiding gatherings. Online meetings are quite the norm now and home delivery of food looks better compared to the risk of going to a restaurant. Similarly, we have realised that many healthcare issues can be solved at home and do not require a visit to the clinic or hospital most of the time. Basic as well as critical procedures, can now be done at home by trained clinicians. Healthcare digitisation is also driving the ecosystem of healthcare and bringing effective care to home with convenience and comfort.
Clinical services at home
The pandemic has limited movement and venturing out of the home. Clinical procedures like injection administration / infusions at hospitals or physiotherapy sessions at clinic look daunting as they bring with them a risk of exposure. Home healthcare organisations have been very instrumental in providing health services at home in such scenarios. With expert and trained clinicians, quality controls and protocol-driven care, patients can trust the healthcare services at home as they did hospital-based care. It is convenient, affordable, reliable and driven by clinical protocols. And it is delivered with the treating doctor / hospital in loop so that the continuum of care for the patients is maintained.
Types of healthcare services – at home and beyond
It comprises the following
- Visit based physical services
- Video based consultations
- Long term services at home
- Acute care with remote monitoring
- Services in a corporate setting
Home healthcare is beneficial as a doctor is readily available for home visit or teleconsultation on video. Telehealth is a great way to get in touch with the clinician and avoid unnecessary travel. Nurses can visit patient homes for all kinds of clinical procedures including those like catheterisation, onco-care or stoma care. Patients need not postpone their physiotherapy or speech therapy sessions as the clinicians can travel to their home or be available for video sessions. Vaccinations can be administered at home under the combined care of doctors and nurses. Many COVID-19 patients have been treated effectively with home monitoring through a multi-disciplinary clinical team.
Effective monitoring of the patient with clinical outcome measures (COM) and continuous feedback to the treating clinician, leads to a beneficial impact on the patient’s health.
Role of technology for effective care
The pandemic has made many of us aware and acceptable of newer technologies. Mouse, click, login, password, Zoom are today in the vocabulary of all age groups from kindergarten to octogenarians. Technologies have become more user-friendly and consumers more accepting. Consumers find the technological tools indispensable to stay connected. Mobile phones and smart technologies are ubiquitous. Newer industries, newer services have adopted technology to survive, or to adapt to the novelty of the Corona-induced economy. Organisations are moving towards being paperless, regulations are now friendly for digital eco-system and the public discourse is no longer around scepticism but rather towards feature enhancement.
Electronic Medical Records (EMR) are helpful for patients and organisations in such a scenario. With easy and quick access to the complete medical history of a patient, the remote clinician can see the data conveniently. Even if the patient is travelling or is in another city, the medical records are always accessible for the patients. Connected devices and monitoring solutions are especially useful for management of high-risk population suffering from chronic diseases and with multiple issues (co-morbidities). Daily monitoring and timely intervention can lead to a more customised treatment plan. Advances in technology have the potential not only to facilitate better and efficient delivery of healthcare services at home but also bring more awareness and empowerment with the patient and family.
Remote patient monitoring
With the aid of technology, remote monitoring and connected devices, now intensive/critical care is also available at home. For patients who need long term acute care (LTAC) or are bedridden chronically (after surgery or due to respiratory/neurological illness), holistic care may be provided by a multi-disciplinary team with remote monitoring by specialists. The devices can monitor vital signs, symptoms and other parameters. Along with live video streaming, a multi-disciplinary team can help with complete, connected and effective care to the patient.
Organised home healthcare – trust and quality
Earlier home healthcare was unorganised and run by bureaus with lack of quality control and customer-centricity. But with the home healthcare sector becoming organised and institutionalised with the advent of trusted players, the scenario has changed. Expert and experienced clinicians are recruited with various background checks. Training and clinical protocols are institutionalised. Audits, quality controls and tech involvement aid in high-quality clinical services with safety. Hospitals have been partnering with home healthcare companies so that extended care may be provided to patients at home with similar clinical quality. Hence, quality clinical services at home is a prudent investment that people have been making for management of their own health and that of their loved ones.
The change is here to stay
Healthcare is not where one experiments unnecessarily and is generally risk-averse. Regulatory restrictions and lack of clarity also dissuaded providers in adopting different tech models of care delivery earlier. With telemedicine guidelines released in March 2020, doctors and patients are more confident and comfortable. The pandemic has prompted consumers and organisations to re-evaluate their technology needs. This shift is going to open many more avenues for newer tools to come in. Fall detection devices, smart pill dispensers, smart diapers, self-monitoring devices which transmit the data to care providers – consumers are going to be more accepting of these as it promotes their independence with effective monitoring.
According to the World Health Organisation, patient empowerment is “a process through which people gain greater control over decisions and actions affecting their health.” Home healthcare empowers patients in many ways. It develops self-awareness, self-care and promotes the belief that patients can be active participants in their healthcare journey and decisions. This puts the patient at the centre of it and leads to better health outcomes and quicker recovery. Home healthcare is a beneficial choice – a safe and affordable solution that brings quality and expert care in the convenience and comfort of one’s home.