May 2, 2022 | 4 Min Read
The last two years were marked by fear, isolation and economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. But it was through these challenges we developed a need to interact with each other remotely.
In the healthcare ecosystem, we’ve seen a shift in how consumers engaged with their care providers—often through the use of technology in the comfort and safety of their homes.
Payers realized the benefits of Health at Home and began paying for services historically only reimbursed for in-person visits with a provider.
Consumers now have a choice of virtual or in-person care. Fears of leaving the safety of your home are eliminated, scheduling is convenient, and changes in patient health status are being captured while still manageable, preventing the need for hospitalization.
Even the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) are now offering reimbursements for healthcare services being delivered remotely at home. This wasn’t conceivable prior to the pandemic.
As we grapple with COVID-19 becoming endemic, virtual access to healthcare and Health at Home remains a popular option for receiving care with technology playing a key role in making this a reality.
Home—a trusted space
While home care services are not unique to the pandemic, reimbursement models monetizing health at home became a reality during this time. Regulations suddenly supported a new model of care.
Our health needs were addressed within the four walls of our homes—a space of trust, convenience, and family support.
For the elderly, options for managing chronic care expanded into their homes, too. The concept of hospital at home was born out of the need to reduce potential exposure of vulnerable populations to COVID-19 while supplying the same level of quality care received in a hospital.
In addition to limiting potential exposures to the virus, an early study shows hospital-level care in the patient’s home resulted in fewer laboratory orders, less time lying down along with being readmitted less frequently within 30 days.
Technology—the driving force for health at home
The virtual care emergency department (ED)
Imagine waking up from your sleep with pain in your rib cage. You’re fearful something is wrong, yet afraid to drive to the ED. Do you call an ambulance? Ask a friend to drive you? What if you could simply use the telephone or computer and be visually connected with an ED doctor?
Imagine the video conference where you can describe what you are experiencing, what triggered it, medications you are currently taking and answer additional questions directly with the ED care professional.
Being told you would be safe to wait until morning to call your primary care provider allows you to avoid sitting in an overcrowded ED for hours.
It allows you to try to sleep until the morning. It keeps the ED open for those patients who truly require the emergent care. Scenarios like this are helping virtual care expand successfully into homes.
Our lives happen between visits to our physicians. Between visits, wearables can support our health status by relaying important information to physicians. Many start out the day by putting a smart watch on or attaching a wearable to our body.
Our biological data such as heart rate, blood pressure, sweat sensing or blood glucose levels are some of the more common metrics monitored via our wearables.
New research and development addressing wearable electroencephalography (EEG) monitors for people with seizure disorders, or wearables for assessing lung function is providing more opportunities to focus on health at home.
The data from wearables supplies valuable feedback to the clinical teams helping to keep consumers in their homes and out of EDs or hospitals.
Healthcare apps are also making health at home a reality. Healthcare apps can support patient-physician relationships during the time we are not sitting face to face with our doctor. Apps can track physical activity, vital signs like blood pressure of blood sugars, provide medical reminders, and communicate with physicians.
The costs of apps range from a few dollars in a one-time payment to a monthly subscription fee of over $10. A quick check with your health plan could provide reimbursement or a discounted rate.
Tracking carbs and macros provide insight for people managing weight and for people with diabetes.
For app developers, learning how to “onboard” new users is key to maintaining stickiness and growing successful apps. Combining the actions of several apps into an updated version where the consumer has a “one stop shop” experience to carry out several actions is driving change and new opportunities.
The consumer wins
Healthcare consumers now have choices in terms of how they receive care. Receiving care at home can reduce anxiety and fear. And that’s a win for the patient. After all, decreasing stress is key to a body battling an illness.
Improved outcomes, increased patient satisfaction, and lowered costs have been the battle cry for value-based care over the years. Are we closer to achieving this? Perhaps a change in venue for care might lead to innovation in the way care is delivered in the short term.
Expanding the options for health at home is trending up. Healthcare organizations are looking for the blueprints to build innovative programs that attract consumers who have had a taste of the future and are not willing to turn back.