By Jackleen Samuel, president and CEO, Resilient Healthcare.
The great challenge of the American healthcare system in the 21st century has been its accessibility. Hospitals are overrun with patients, doctors and nurses are bogged down by staffing shortages, and rural Americans still suffer in huge stretches of medical deserts where the nearest hospital could be fifty miles away or more.
The question then becomes, in a digital era when so many processes and organizations are becoming more efficient, flexible and convenient, can the same be accomplished in the healthcare complex?
Telehealth and digital medical technologies have begun to create a bridge in healthcare where there once was a widening gap. Patients who suffer from chronic illness and/or receive end-of-life care are often made to endure an interminable cycle of rehospitalization. These patients are shuffled endlessly between hospitals and homes, a journey that in some areas of the country could take hours to traverse. They are packed into waiting rooms and ushered through hospital hallways, where oftentimes the risk of contracting another serious illness is far higher, and they are put through a gamut of medical testing and vitals checking before they are finally able to receive the care that they desperately needed. These patients not only require the high-acuity care that hospitals can provide, but also the means to access this treatment in a comfortable and convenient setting.
Home health agencies have long provided quality care in the comfort of patients’ homes with the help of acute home care models and outpatient-at-home programs. However, as our healthcare system continues to have undue pressure placed upon it, these agencies are forced to provide higher levels of care and services to more and more patients.
This feat can be accomplished, but not without these services being buoyed by the latest in available medical technologies. We can now monitor vitals remotely and provide actionable insight to doctors and nurses who can offer treatment plans and prescribe medications that are then delivered directly to patients’ doors. In addition to this new level of virtual care, teams of mobile clinicians and nurses become integral in the delivery of quality care outside of hospital walls and help to further expand their reach into the surrounding community.
By making comprehensive and convenient care possible outside of hospitals and medical facilities, it stands to reason that the patient will not only benefit from the ease of treatment, but will also be far likelier to comply with treatment plans and schedules and adhere to prescribed medications. The patient will feel more at ease in their home environment, as opposed to a sterilized hospital room, and—given the direct-to-door nature of the care—will experience a higher level of engagement with their personal health, leading to better physical and mental health scores amongst patients receiving home care. By promoting better compliance with at-home treatment plans, these patients will enjoy reductions in the number of rehospitalizations.
While these services will be able to provide high-acuity in-home care to many individuals, it would be unfair to say that this is a blanket cure-all for every patient. The fact is some patients will always need brick-and-mortar hospitals in order to achieve the level of treatment they require.
However, as more and more health agencies are searching for ways to better provide personal and comfortable care to as many patients as possible, the simplest and most obvious solution is to help hospitals improve their capability to expand their sphere of care into the community with the development and adoption of telehealth and medical technologies in the home.