Home healthcare patient

Patient at home

Over the past twenty years, there has been a concerted effort by companies in many different industries to make convenience for their customers a core tenet of their offerings. Food delivery required digging through menus, making a phone call, and then having no idea if dinner was arriving in 15 minutes or 50. Calling a cab was a hit, especially when you had to get to the airport. Buying a new iPhone for some people meant camping out in front of a store.

While hundreds of billions of dollars in investment have gone into the advances needed to make “buying” as easy as clicking a button, healthcare remains mired in a frustrating cycle of inconvenience and frustration. The unfortunate reality is that many patients delay recommended care or diagnosis because of the inconvenience. Once we lose that impulse to meet our needs, it often fades into the background, which means late diagnoses and even more expensive treatment in the long run.

The best way to encourage patients to take control of their care is to make it easy for them. This means online scheduling (who wants to talk to a person these days!?), wide availability (early, late, weekends) and ensuring they have transparent cost information at their fingertips. To go even further, make the total time it takes to receive that care significantly less than what they’re used to – 50%, even 80% shorter. Eliminating travel time to a doctor’s office or lab does almost all of this by itself, but the model only works if the same quality of care can be provided.

Of course, we cannot move all medical interactions into the home, nor should we. But the size of the domestic global healthcare market is already large and growing rapidly – according to forecasts reach $273.9 billion by 2027 from $181.9 billion in 2020. Several key factors have driven this trend: rapid growth of the elderly population, increasing incidence of chronic diseases, increasing need for cost-effective healthcare delivery due to rising healthcare costs and technological advances in home care devices, to name a few.

After all, flipping the healthcare experience and bringing it into the home can significantly move it from headache-inducing to—dare we dream? – pleasant. However, it should also come with at least cost neutrality or better yet, cost reduction. If a patient is already in the doctor’s office and there is a lab on site, the patient should use that lab. If they don’t have mobility or time constraints, visiting a facility will often be more accessible (even if significantly less convenient). However, when it comes to advance care, the cost implications can be dramatic. In many situations, early diagnosis leads to early intervention, and early intervention leads to a better outcome for the patient, provider, and payer.

Where home care can really shine is in value-based care arrangements. Early detection of someone with hypertension can lead to medication that reduces the likelihood of heart failure, and paying for a home screening is worth the cost for the overall savings it can provide to whoever is responsible for paying. A recalcitrant patient may be willing to take 5 minutes out of their day instead of 90 for this type of examination and a real “win-win” can be achieved. Of course, risk stratification is how the economy ultimately works, which means a significant investment in data and analytics by care providers or payers—you don’t want to suddenly be doing home checks for all of America, at least not until we have flying clinical drones.

The healthcare of the future may look a lot like the healthcare of the present, just faster, more convenient and more affordable when you consider the entire path of patients and dollars. We don’t need magical technology to solve these problems, we just need a commitment for different organizations in the value chain to work together, even if it means a small additional cost to save significantly later. This is achievable today; one day soon, getting basic diagnostics will be as easy as getting food delivered to your door.

Photo: SDI Productions, Getty Images

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