For the past few years, the health system has been faced with the issue of overcrowding and a lack of beds to facilitate the number of persons who need to be admitted to hospital.
The prevalence of non-communicable diseases and the need for the management of these, especially when they get to an advanced stage or result in issues requiring surgery have exacerbated the problem. In cases like these, when many patients need constant care and monitoring – more than the hospitals are equipped to handle – there are not many options available in the current system. The number of beds in facilities is finite, and despite efforts over the years to continually add bed space, the challenge remains.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the problem even worse as several persons require admission for long periods to recover. The hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed, resulting in those needing care for other issues being unable to access space at facilities.
This has brought into focus the need to find solutions to the issue of bed space, admission and the ability to maintain constant and consistent care in an environment where patients may not be able to remain in hospital for the time that is required for them to fully recover. This may not work for everyone, depending on specific needs, but for those who can opt for hospital-at-home care, there may be immense benefits.
Hospital-at-home care is where supportive care can be given in the home environment by a caregiver while still being treated and monitored by healthcare personnel at a hospital with a combination of in-person and remote monitoring as may be required. The most likely scenario for this in our context is someone who has done surgery and is in recovery. Continuous short term or acute care is required, but it is not essential for that to happen while they are admitted to a hospital.
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The first thing that is required is the relevant technology that would facilitate connectivity between the home and hospital. The hospital, therefore, will need to be digital and the patient’s home will require Internet connectivity as well as remote devices that can connect to the hospital. Importantly, the electronic medical record (EMR) needs to be constantly updated so that there is continuity of care. This is easily done, once both sides are digital and devices are integrated.
There are several benefits to utilising at-home care. The first would be less overcrowding at hospitals. There would be less of an issue with trying to provide beds for admission and patients could be discharged much sooner than they would have if they had to be monitored in a ward. This would open up space for more critical patients and those in need of surgeries would be facilitated sooner. Immediately, a reduction in the backlog and waiting list for surgeries would result. Many times, apart from the availability of medical personnel, the inability to find space for admission impacts whether persons are able to undertake surgery.
Hospital-at-home care will result in reduced cost for both the institution and the patient. The patient will not have to pay for room and board in situations where there is a charge for that and the hospital has less costs to absorb, such as food, overheads (water, electricity, etc) and the use of other amenities, associated with the patient being in the institution.
LONELINESS AND STRESS
Importantly, as well, some patients will thrive in their own environment when they have family and friends around them during recovery. This is important as it reduces loneliness and stress, which can have healing benefits. It also reduces or eliminates the possibility of nosocomial infections – those contracted while in hospital and usually unrelated to the current diagnosis.
According to the World Health Organization, “hundreds of millions of patients are affected by health care-associated infections worldwide each year, leading to significant mortality and financial losses for health systems.”
There are so many possibilities to improve healthcare through the adoption of technology. At-home-hospital care would most certainly improve patient satisfaction as well as result in other benefits for the patients, caregivers, hospital and the country in general.
– Doug Halsall is the chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.