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Home healthcare more affordable than hospitalisation

Rajiv Mathur
Wednesday, December 13, 2017, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

With the turn of the decade, we have come a long way in the terms of healthcare, leaving back the days when one would visit the family aid to get his health checked. With advancement of science, options have increased in medicare. Yet when it comes to medical amenities, there is a great demand for continuity as the prices keep piling up.
Home healthcare, an unorganized and fragmented sector is fast catching the attention of entrepreneurs and investors and is emerging as an organized, technology-led industry with standards and protocols. It is like giving love care, compassion till the very end. Providing 24 x 7 care to the loved ones is what is home healthcare. Instant care is a bliss to the ones who cannot go to the hospital immediately or always for a regular checkup but need good care.

It is a known fact that there is tremendous pressure on hospitals in delivering services at their facility, especially in Critical Care. About 40 per cent of patients admitted in hospitals suffer from chronic diseases that range from heart diseases, diabetes, stroke, COPD, etc, with the cost of such treatments remaining on the heftier side. Also, one has to consider hospital charges, food expenses and so on. The net total ends up to be a lump sum value that often reaches beyond the means of a middle-class household. Fortunately today, there’s a solution that helps reduce this load with treatment at home rather than at the hospital.

Via a recent study in New York state, the cost of treatment of cardiovascular diseases was to be US$ 22.6 billion in 2016. If such diseases are treated at home, they not only reduce the load on the hospital but also make it more affordable for the patients.
With advancements in technology both, in IT and integration with medical electronics, it is possible to provide high quality care at home, at an affordable price range. Technology helps in providing relevant and real time information in monitoring the vital parameters as relevant to the ailment of that patient. This information can easily be accessible by the key stakeholders in the ecosystem such as the treating doctor, the nursing staff and the patient's family. It can provide for critical communication between the nurse and the treating doctor which has a high impact on the outcome of the treatment. With integration of mobile technology and data analytics, again, real time information could be disseminated to make appropriate amendments in the line of treatment. Since, home healthcare involves monitoring of care being delivered remotely. It is integration of technology that enables appropriate monitoring. Additionally, use of technology in managing and optimising resources will deliver greater efficiency as well as allow scaling up of operations rapidly. Also, interconnectivity through devices and portability of treatments and equipment makes it feasible to provide critical care at the comfortable environs of home. Patients receive individualized care designed to meet their specific needs.

Let’s understand the key benefits in providing healthcare at home as compared to the care received in hospitals for patients suffering from chronic ailments/post surgical or trauma situations.

Comfort of home – being in familiar surroundings helps the patient in being more positive in fighting the ailment. The patient has access to his/her favourites; like books or soothing music or spiritual routines, amongst others.

Family access – while a controlled and sanitized environment needs to be maintained in the home, there is more access for the loved ones, which again helps in the healing process.

Quality of care – since there are no other distractions for the team of care givers, the attention is focussed on the patient. Minor variations in the condition, symptoms which may have significant ramifications, can be picked up early to review the medication.

Safer from infections – staph infections, colds, flues, viral gastroenteritis, and other illnesses are legitimate concerns during hospital stays. Danger from such infections is greatly mitigated in a controlled home environment.

Diet control – especially for older patients, who for a long period in their lives, have been used a certain variety of food. What is provided in hospitals may be nutritionally healthy and relevant, the same could be achieved in the home with food that is more acceptable and palatable for the patient. Loss of weight, due to inadequate intake, in some conditions could pose a serious problem.

Convenience – as lives are getting busier with families distributed across the globe, providing help and monitoring in the home is a lot more convenient for the patient’s family and care givers.

Peace – all the patients can’t afford to have a private ward where they can get the treatment and in the common ward there is lot of noise and disturbance of several patients. But in home health care, the patient can be easily treated in his/her room where noise and commotion can be controlled.

Reduced readmissions – with advancements in the field of medicine and technology, a number of interventions can be administered in the home, e.g  X-Ray, Dialysis, without the need for readmissions to the hospital. This greatly reduces the stress on the patient who may already be in a weak and vulnerable position.

Second opinion – there are a number of situations where it is advisable to obtain another opinion on the diagnosis and treatment of an ailment. Treatment at home provides greater independence to the patient and the family to seek and obtain another opinion from other competent sources, both nationally and internationally.

Financial advantage – healthcare costs could be 30 to 70 per cent less than hospitalization; for example, a typical cost of stay in an ICU of a large private hospital could range between Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 50,000 a day; whereas, putting up an ICU facility at home, complete with equipment and medical expertise, would range between Rs. 7,500 to Rs. 10,000 a day. Another example is a monthly package of recovery from stroke could cost between Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 30,000 at home compared to Rs. 5,000 a day at a hospital.

Although there is a lot going on for home healthcare, what we know about this branch of care giving is just the tip of a colossal iceberg. With time, this shall advance to such glorious heights that older tropes would be unfathomable and home healthcare would be the messiah of the hour. The cost factor forms an important part in opting for home care in comparison to hospitals. Cutting out expenses of stay and food, it costs less than keeping a patient in the hospital. As home healthcare enables people to recuperate in the comfort and privacy of their own home, at a cost savings of 36-50 per cent over hospitalization or nursing home confinement.

The home care market in India is currently in its nascent stage, although rapidly growing. Thus, far it has largely operated in unorganised sector. However, with the advent of technology and funding into the sector, it is growing rapidly.
The market for home care in India is estimated to be between US $ 2-4 billion and forecast to grow at the rate of 40 per cent over the next few years. Market globally for home care is forecast to be in excess US $ 300 billion.

(Author is founder of Critical Care Unified (CCU), New Delhi)


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