For healthcare to come home—and for it to remain there—a different kind of infrastructure must be built.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink what can effectively be done from home. One of the most serendipitous realizations is that the home can be the safest, most cost-effective and restorative setting for delivering and receiving healthcare. While the negatives of the pandemic are too numerous to count, as the founder and CEO of a healthcare technology company, I view the movement of more healthcare services into the home setting as a positive trend that will continue even after we reach herd immunity. But this shift to more home-based care requires that providers update the technology required to deliver care effectively.
When you consider the size and medical complexities of the aging population, combined with the shrinking workforce to care for them, and the declining numbers of hospital systems nationally (leaving “care deserts” and swaths of underserved communities), it’s not hard to see how the home is poised to be a critical locus for the future of care delivery.
Yet for healthcare to come home—and for it to remain there – a different kind of infrastructure must be built. The formula for that infrastructure can be broken down into three parts: people, process and technology. This is a formula for achieving optimal results in the home health, hospice and rehabilitative sectors, where we have equipped healthcare organizations with the right tools to manage people, streamline processes, and digitize clinical documentation so they can deliver the best care possible.
Historically, “people” has meant the individuals working in the back office and the clinical teams who tend to patients. Today, this term is more universal, and it starts with all people, as well as the demand that healthcare be more affordable, accessible and effective. What better place than the home to satisfy all three?
During the pandemic, regulations like the Hospital-At-Home Waiver and the Home Health Emergency Access to Telehealth (HEAT) Act propelled greater adoption of home healthcare, especially by newer market entrants. But ask any seasoned home healthcare, hospice or rehab therapy provider and you’ll learn that these experts long ago mastered how best to deliver care at home, working alongside caregivers and understanding social determinants of health before that was a buzz phrase. The challenge to these providers now is to optimize their internal operational processes to meet the demands mentioned above. Streamlined workflows to reduce administrative overhead and smart systems to accelerate cash flows are critical to growth.
With their people aligned to their goals, and their processes fine-tuned to be best-in-class, many identify technology as the differentiating factor for their successes. Most obviously, those providers who were using cloud-based software had a far easier transition to remote workforce operations than those dependent on a physical fax machine to keep their businesses running. But healthcare is exceedingly complex, and when care delivery was wrenched away from its normal boundaries, those providers who had command of their operational and revenue management processes and care coordination from a central, digital dashboard had a clear advantage over those who did not. Undoubtedly, so did their patients, who were less likely to see their care interrupted. While the exponential adoption of telehealth in the healthcare industry made headlines—and deservedly so—it’s the more foundational technology applications that will truly transform how, and where, care can be delivered.
Today’s care delivery model mostly favors providers who own and operate physical care locations, with patients at the mercy of an inflexible scheduling system and a pricing structure that may render some procedures unaffordable. Imagine a future where the model is flipped, and care providers compete to deliver care directly to a patient, in the patient’s home, according to the patient’s schedule, simultaneously reducing costs.
If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic is the catalyst that helps us realize that a patient-centric future may not be, and should not be, that far off. We will get there faster when we embrace the value, practical experience and potential of those providers who have always delivered care at home. Couple that with a sector fortified by the right people, process and technology, and I’m confident that even better care at home is on the horizon.
About the Author
Craig Mandeville is founder and CEO of Forcura.