Early research shows that hospital-at-home programs provide better outcomes at lower costs to patients, providers, and payers, so interest in expanding these services should surprise no one. Telehealth software empowers providers to reach their patients from anywhere with greater flexibility when compared to in-person consultations where the provider is limited to offering care within a given geographic area. Patients who deal with chronic conditions or who lack access to reliable transportation can still receive care through virtual delivery models, allowing for more consistent patient-provider communication and greater adherence to treatment.
Before implementation of these programs can begin in earnest however, there are some roadblocks to overcome. Some of these concerns (implementing new reimbursement models for virtual care, for example) can only be addressed by fellow healthcare professionals, but many others can be solved through the power of IoT technology.
Technology and Care Providers As Partners
The dramatic growth in both availability and acceptance of virtual healthcare services (telehealth, hospital-at-home, remote patient monitoring, etc.) is a result of the increased flexibility and ease of access that these offerings provide, particularly in times of public health crises or as patient populations become increasingly limited in their mobility. But not all virtual healthcare solutions are equal. Successful deployment and adoption are only realized if hospitals systems and technology providers partner to deliver care effectively. Healthcare providers are responsible for the wellbeing of their patients, and as such, they are justifiably concerned with patient experience, accuracy, and compliance protocols when new systems are implemented.
To make good on the promise of virtual healthcare in a manner that addresses those factors, patient-facing practitioners must be enabled by robust and secure technology infrastructure that supports and integrates with the more than 7 million connected devices that will be deployed in smart hospitals by 2026. As the industry innovates, and more use cases for those connected devices are presented to solutions providers, their role in ensuring patient safety and quality of care becomes more closely evident. The healthcare industry and the solution providers that they rely on must work in tandem as equal partners to overcome potential technological challenges on the way to driving widespread healthtech adoption.
Solutions for Every Patient
Being adequately prepared for any scenario in the healthcare field requires optimized response times and instant access to relevant data. One of the chief concerns put forth by healthcare providers who are considering the implementation of health-tech programs is a lack of access to immediate care. After all, when a patient is in the hospital, they have 24/7 access to qualified nursing staff. What happens if a patient needs assistance at home? Will a home healthcare professional be able to reach them in time to help? The answer lies in 24/7 remote patient monitoring. Connected healthcare devices such as heartrate monitors or medicine trackers give doctors insight into a patient’s vitals and adherence to prescribed care around the clock. If something changes, these devices can send immediate alerts to emergency services.
Technology solutions also give providers the ability to make an informed determination as to which patients are best suited for hospital-at-home programs. Different levels of care may be required for different conditions. The appeal of telehealth and hospital-at-home programs is flexibility; it’s not about fundamentally changing the way that all patient care is provided. Rather, it is about empowering healthcare professionals to expand their portfolio of services and ease the burden on patients in the name of improved outcomes and a higher degree of patient experience.
Bridging the Connectivity Gap
One of the major concerns when it comes to standardizing healthcare-at-home models is a matter of connectivity. Large hospital systems in well-connected urban areas may have an easier time implementing hospital-at-home services due to the existing technology infrastructure and greater access to resources. However, the needs of patients located in rural or lower income communities will need to be considered as well if telehealth is to become a true industry standard. If there’s ever a risk that a patient’s monitoring devices will lose connectivity, or that the patient won’t be able to reach their provider in the event of an emergency, it’s understandable that providers will not feel comfortable recommending people for these programs.
The proliferation of 5G networks provides a solution to this problem. 5G technology is especially suited to serving rural communities due to the strength of the signals and the less demanding infrastructure requirements. Providers can work with an IoT expert to build a take-home healthcare kit with communication devices compatible with 5G, 4G LTE, or CBRS networks. Beyond that, advances in wireless connectivity can connect existing devices to 5G networks, and aid small hospital systems as well as private practices in gathering critical patient data without requiring heavy investment in brand new devices.
The Future of Healthcare
According to the HIMSS 2022 State of Healthcare Report, 84% of healthcare providers are already utilizing digital health tools in their daily operations. Proponents of IoT technology have a vested interest in assisting those providers to learn more about digital transformation by designing the best tools for the job, taking the unique challenges of HIPAA compliance into account while doing so, and working to ensure seamless integration of these devices into existing healthcare infrastructure.
The healthcare industry is continually innovating and evolving to provide patients with the highest quality of care. The COVID-19 public health crisis showed providers that robust telehealth systems are required to keep patients connected to their caretakers, and the positive results of healthcare at home have raised interest in their use outside of such emergencies. Being able to provide patients with virtual healthcare options that are secure, reliable, and less expensive than traditional models is a positive form of growth.