Addressing the Challenges of Home Healthcare with Technology

Home healthcare is becoming an important component in attempts to contain medical costs.

About 30 percent of employer health benefits expenses are due to in-patient treatment, according to PwC Health Research Institute.

Not only can home-based treatment and delivery be less expensive than hospitals, but it is more convenient as well. Home healthcare comprises a variety of skilled services delivery, as the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services explain, including the following:

  • Care of surgical wounds
  • Intravenous services
  • Injections
  • Patient education
  • Health status monitoring

Proper home healthcare can help patients avoid hospitalization and readmittance. However, the topic raises two fundamental concerns. One is a lack of staffing. The number of available people hasn’t kept up with skyrocketing demand, particularly as the field can be limited in what it can pay workers.

[Slava Girzhel, managing director of healthcare investment banking at KeyBanc Capital Markets], expects continued growth in the sector, and as a result he’s seeing meaningful interest from various public and private sources. But with a backlog of patients, home health services are limited by their ability to attract and recruit quality staff.

“Part of the issue is certainly reimbursement related,” said Girzhel. “It has limited home health companies’ ability to pay living wages. There are less skilled individuals going into the home taking care of a person who can’t take care of themselves. That’s basically a minimum wage type of position. If they were able to pay more, they would be able to attract higher quality workers.

The other concern is communication. Proper home healthcare requires more than dropping supplies off with a patient and an occasional follow-up phone call. Particularly when a patient is either chronically ill or recovering from a significant incident, medical professionals need the ability to stay in touch easily and collect information needed for ongoing monitoring.

Technology is a necessary tool to make home healthcare practical and efficient. One way it can help is to provide advanced labor management to predict need and more efficiently staff.

Mobile technology has also made it possible for professionals to work more effectively. Equipment can use an internet connection to relay important information to a doctor or hospital. At the same time, care providers who travel to a home can have access to full patient records, lab results, and other vital information. New devices can allow vital sign monitoring and incorporate voice recognition to respond to non-numerical data. Even people who are not seriously ill might still provide ongoing monitoring of chronic conditions through smartphones or wearable devices. Market analyst firm Tractica expects 78.5 million people worldwide to use home health technologies by 2020.

Home healthcare is of growing importance in the industry, and technology will make it possible.

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