By Liz Kwo, MD, MBA, MPH - Chief Medical Officer, Everly Health
With more than 700 million senior citizens today, there is a growing concern amongst healthcare professionals around how to offer holistic and individualized care to the largest growing population segment in America, whom are also more likely to have a serious or disabling condition.
But through the pandemic, home-health devices and lab testing have risen as a digital opportunity to accelerate the next generation of care by offering seamless personalized experiences and patient-centered care at home while enabling individuals, such as the elderly, to age in the comfort and safety of their own homes.
Furthermore, home health devices can demonstrate cost savings for healthcare systems - which is one of the main criteria payers are looking at when it comes to reimbursement - as a result of fewer hospitalizations or expenses on medication.
So how can healthcare leaders better leverage home-health solutions to deliver innovative products that will not only enhance the member’s care delivery experience with their providers but also reduce overall costs?
Often, it is easy for organizations to build a solution without the patient’s needs in mind. However, patients are consumers and expect devices with intuitive capabilities that offer a seamless omni-channel experience. They expect nothing less from home care devices.
This is why equipping consumer electronics with home care monitoring functions is a winning bet: smartwatches or wearables that can measure ECGs, for example, are already incorporated into many lives and changing the way Anthem is defining the future of care delivery with our members.
There are not enough physicians to monitor health data received from various home care devices, which makes data collection an expensive process whose benefits are lost due to a lack of follow-up. However, the key is not to place all of the responsibility on physicians; instead, carve-out specific workflows that leverage data scientists and allied health professionals to maximize care delivery impact.
In one digital program, pharmacists and wellness coaches monitored remotely the blood pressure of 6,000 high risk patients and followed-up with patients via text and e-mail, which resulted in many patients reaching their blood pressure targets and likely reducing some administrative burdens from physicians too.
Medical devices that blend into homes with capabilities to seamlessly monitor, collect and transmit users’ data to medical professionals will represent a first choice for most patients, especially since they don’t imply home re-decorations, behavioral changes, or high levels of cognitive awareness. The key is to remember home-health devices that require minimal behavioral shifts or changes in habits will more likely be adopted.
The smart toilet seat is an example where data like blood pressure, blood oxygenation levels and heart rate is collected after 90 seconds of skin contact and a report is sent to a cardiologist who determines if and what intervention is required. Thus, creating this seamless and integrated experience with the provider. Smart mattresses are another example that blend into homes and collect data regarding the respiration, the quality of sleep and heart rate without any effort from users.
To that end, home health devices are a promising trend that can support the industry’s priorities on creating integrated care models to wrap high touch support and high-tech capabilities around members with disabling and complex conditions in the comfort and safety of their own homes.
Organizations that can effectively leverage those factors mentioned above into their long-term strategies will not only deliver innovative products for consumers but also successfully improve health outcomes and patient satisfaction, and drive down the total cost of care.