A move to homecare has been on the horizon for many years, but COVID-19 acted as a catalyst, turning predictions into priorities. The pandemic rationalized the immediate need to focus on homecare by major industry players: pharmaceutical companies, drug-delivery companies, providers, payers and—for the first time—patients themselves began to demand at-home alternatives.
Patients were hesitant to go to the hospital both for fear of contracting COVID-19, and, since hospitals had limited noncritical services due to patient overload, the demand for in-home care options reached an all-time high. According to the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, the demand for homecare workers increased by 125% in February 2021.
Two years into the pandemic, we now know that we can provide quality care in the home, yet staffing shortages still pose a challenge. In order to ensure that patients can receive the care they need where they need and want it (e.g., at home), providers must adopt the right technologies that reduce reliance on homecare workers themselves, enabling care teams to effectively manage larger patient caseloads without compromising quality care and patient safety.
The Future of Hospital-Grade Technology in the Home
For providers to properly transition care to the home, it is imperative that hospital-grade technologies, which have been in development for many years and conform to critical safety regulations, become more patient-centric for independent use in the home. The challenge lies not only in creating technology suited for home use, but in allowing that technology to be operated by the patient and/or caregiver.
To achieve this, the complexity of the user interface in such technologies should be reduced. This calls for medical devices to be made user friendly, including the addition of features such as touch screens, simplified use protocols, drug-specific devices and safety-embedded software, such as drug libraries and pre-set programming.
Applying the appropriate human factor, the usability of medical devices has become a crucial mandate from the Food & Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies, with the goal of helping reduce errors and enabling the use of devices by nonclinical personnel, such as family members or patients themselves.
A key factor in the implementation of hospital-grade devices into the homecare environment is connectivity, which many device manufacturers have begun including in their product lines.
Connectivity of devices in the home is crucial for clinicians to safely track their patients’ status in real time. Connectivity breeds transparency; device activity can be flagged in real time, and treatment status and patient adherence can be easily monitored anywhere.
All of this gives clinicians a better understanding of what is going on with their patients from a distance, enabling them to act to ensure proper care delivery and compliance. Real-time remote patient monitoring enabled by advanced connectivity capabilities—beyond what current smart devices can provide—will be instrumental in maintaining healthy statuses for patients who have more complex conditions or multiple conditions.
Connectivity also enables easy two-way communication between patient and clinician. Imagine the stress on the patient or caregiver who is using a drug delivery device at home and isn’t sure everything is going as planned. How powerful would it be if the user received feedback when the treatment was administered correctly?
Delving Into Data Trends
Until now, the data provided by most homecare devices was limited to simple activity logs. Hospital-grade devices, on the other hand, use the data to correlate between the drug, the prescription, the drug-delivery device and the patient to make sure the right drug is given in the proper dosage.
Patients’ clinical data is not only beneficial for immediate care needs but can also be a springboard for future developments. Through monitoring patients’ therapies, rich data can be obtained to uncover trends and lead to newfound insights, ultimately improving patient care.
Connectivity Closes the Patient-Provider-Payer Loop
The patient experience and the provider experience are linked—the provider’s need to monitor, assist and ensure the patient receives the best possible care is entwined with the patient’s need to be monitored and cared for by a health care professional while being assured that their treatment is progressing as prescribed.
Connected hospital-grade drug delivery devices answer the needs of providers and patients—and that can ultimately fulfill the needs of payers as well. Adding connectivity to hospital-grade devices optimized for homecare environments allows patient compliance to tracked and treatments to be monitored to ensure that they are correctly administered.
After those steps are completed, payers can receive confirmation that the expense incurred for the treatment was justified because of the outcomes achieved. The data therefore can be—and is—used by the payers to close the loop between the prescription and the care delivered.
Homecare at the Forefront
Recent events have illustrated clearly how a single pathogen can overwhelm health care systems. Even before COVID-19, hospital-acquired infections were a major problem for care delivery. It is therefore imperative for the medical device industry to provide new technologies to enable patients to receive high-level care from the comfort of their own homes.
Only by elevating current homecare technologies with patient-centered connectivity and big data aggregation features can homecare providers support the current patient populations and be better prepared for the future, where homecare is due to take a more prominent place within health care delivery.