It’s hard to miss the news these days about a new device or tool that enables someone to track their fitness and monitor his or her own health, via either a mobile device, a “connected” tool (such as a Nike FuelBand), or an in-store self-monitoring health station, such as the SoloHealth kiosk. My father in-law even uses a small device, connected to his iPhone, which helps him monitor his blood sugar levels for diabetes and transmits secure data with his physician through an App – it really is amazing.
So, in this connected world we live in, healthcare is at the forefront of incorporating technologies that are aimed at improving the quality of care while potentially reducing costs. While there are a number of self-use tools as mentioned above, the “Hospital to Home” concept is also fostering the ease of access to care – a very important shift in the continuum of medicine. Previously, patients had to physically transport themselves (or be seen directly at home) in order to receive an in-person diagnosis from a clinician. However, technology has helped to break down the physical barriers that once existed. Patients and providers can now communicate efficiently through technology-enabled mediums that have become reliable in delivering more accurate diagnoses. It is the improved precision of these diagnoses that have helped to reduce the number of in-person visits (which ultimately drive up costs).
Traditionally, the “Hospital to Home” concept was created to assist ailing (particularly seniors) patients manage their transition from a provider-based treatment/monitoring environment to their home. The premise was (and still is) to help patients, through effective post-acute treatment, reduce hospital readmissions. For example, Philips Healthcare has a range of solutions geared for hospital-to-at-home monitoring, which relay pertinent data back to physicians in order to understand and assess real-time patient data. If the data at any times falls outside norms, certain actions are taken around patient care which could reduce hospital readmissions and prevent further complications.
However, as technology has advanced, the “care at home” concept has morphed into facilitating provider-based care in the home (or at schools, churches, etc.) into a more direct patient-to-clinician capacity. These technologies literally bring clinicians “to you”. Miami Children’s Hospital (Miami, FL), for example, has developed a technology system whereby physicians can conduct consults with patients in a “pod”. These pods are essentially enclosed free-standing consult rooms, with telehealth equipped technology that enable clinicians to not only “see” a patient, but actually collect data (vital signs, images, x-rays, CT scans) via remote monitoring tools during the consult. Using the information, the clinician can then deliver opinions and prescribe care as required. This might, for example, cut down on the need during heavy flu season for families to go to an ER (and would instead reduce the overall cost of care due to traditionally higher costs associated with visiting brick and mortar facilities).
The HealthFlock team of experts has done an excellent job of outlining the factors that constrain, as well as offering solutions to help cure, our healthcare system. While the adaptation of technology in healthcare has been slowed due the fractured core of our healthcare ecosystem, inevitably, it will be technology that will drive forward the changes necessary for it to survive – and thrive. Building a more connected healthcare network will drive down costs and improve the overall delivery of care – from the hospital to the home to a free-standing pod.