With hospitals strained to their breaking points with COVID patients and people across the country wondering whether it was wise to go to the emergency room, many systems turned to hospital-at-home programs as part of the solution.
Remote monitoring and telehealth tools effectively extended the triage process for COVID patients into the patients’ own homes, easing the burden on hospitals and helping make sure only the patients who were most sick came in to get care.
Now, the growing hospital-at-home model is showing promise for addressing another critical health problem, one that is the single biggest driver of U.S. healthcare costs and mortality: chronic conditions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90% of healthcare spending is on patients with chronic and mental health conditions. Moreover, chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are responsible for more than seven out of 10 deaths in the United States and are the leading cause of disability.
Despite widespread awareness of this problem, the healthcare system has struggled to find an effective approach to chronic conditions in part because healthcare accounts for only 10 to 20% of populations’ health outcomes.
Social determinants of health — the environmental conditions in which people live and work — play a much bigger role in causing and reinforcing chronic conditions.
By combining telehealth with a care-at-home program, hospital systems can begin to develop an awareness of and data on patients’ environmental circumstances.
“Normally it’s hard to uncover data on social determinants of health. But we think that telehealth will make collecting this data a little bit easier,” explained Peter McLain, Caregility’s Chief Strategy Officer and SVP of Business Development.
Vision for the future of care for chronic conditions
In the near future, care for those with chronic disease will rely not only on social determinants data but also patient data points that go well beyond the standard measurements of blood pressure, weight, and blood oxygen levels to include other relevant physiological data — all of these gathered from hospital at home products.
Meanwhile, telehealth home care will provide the connective platform to leverage that data through the patient’s entire care journey.
Using these health records and the information gathered during the initial consultation, providers will be able to create a personalized care plan for the patient, automatically generate customized workflows, and schedule video check-ins that correspond to the care plan.
Meanwhile, with the patient at home, remote telehealth devices or hospital-at-home equipment will be able to collect new patient data and automatically transmit it through the platform.
A combined hospital-at-home and telehealth program will allow providers to conduct video appointments via the telehealth platform and then use those appointments to gather information about the patient’s social and environmental circumstances, such as the patient’s transportation options, proximity to grocery stores selling healthy food, and the safety of the local neighborhood.
The patients would also get an easy-to-understand overview of their health via a patient dashboard. If the patient for any reason was beginning to deteriorate, that would set off an alarm or notification, and the provider could initiate a video call with the patient to investigate further and get the patient back on track.
In short: a robust telehealth hospital-at-home program would facilitate preventive care that nips problems in the bud.
Telehealth home health care for chronic conditions would be efficient and effective
Another advantage of care-at-home models is that providers could check on more patients via video per day than they would be able to see if traveling to different nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
In addition, a platform that incorporates social determinants of health data would enable providers to more effectively guide patients toward better health. Specifically, the social determinants data would reveal factors that were impeding patient compliance with the care plan.
For example, if the patient wasn’t following a recommendation to eat a plant-based diet, environmental data might reveal that the patient lived in a so-called food desert, where access to healthy food is limited. To address this problem, the care team could identify a program or service that delivers healthy food to the patient’s home.
Or, if the patient lacked transportation to a pharmacy, the care team could arrange for low-expense mail-order prescriptions.
In other words, the care model would enable a holistic approach to care that eliminates barriers to good health and even reverses chronic diseases.
Learn more about how we’re building the future of care for chronic diseases
If you’re interested in learning more about this new hospital-at-home model, please contact us.
As McLain explained, “The paradigm of care for chronic conditions has shifted to a telehealth model, and this new frontier is wide open for innovation.”