The U.S. population is aging, leaving an already taxed healthcare system with more patients to treat than ever. Technology-enabled home healthcare offers tremendous promise as a way to reduce the burden. By offering new ways to proactively monitor and consult with patients, home healthcare technology can reduce the length of hospital stays, prevent readmission, allow clinicians to monitor chronic illnesses remotely and signal worsening patient conditions before they become critical.
In addition to offering healthcare facilities significant savings, home healthcare technology could lead to increased patient satisfaction. A 2011 Joint Commission study found that patients prefer to be treated in their homes, and that home care can help providers achieve optimal health outcomes for their patients. Home healthcare also opens the door to a continuous back-and-forth between provider and patient, rather than limiting communication to office visits, which could empower patients to take more responsibility for their health.
All signs point toward a rapid rise in the adoption of home healthcare technology. But the market is hardly booming. Home care accounted for less than 3 percent of national health spending in 2012, according to National Health Expenditure Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. A Markets and Markets report shows the market for home healthcare equipment is growing at a rate of 7.5 percent per year, toward a projected value of $130.4 billion by 2017. An article published by McKinsey & Company outlined both financial and operational barriers that are holding back growth: “The misalignment of incentives between payers and providers, the need to demonstrate a strong clinical value proposition and the problem of designing attractive, easy-to-use products that facilitate adoption by patients.”
Enter the mobile device. It’s already in the pockets of many patients, and its user interface is familiar. Part of Stage 2 Meaningful Use, which becomes effective this year, will help align payers and providers. The requirement calls for patient and physician participation outside medical offices for physicians to receive government reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid patients. One of the easiest ways to connect patients to physicians outside hospitals and doctors’ offices is through mobile technology. And as more research is performed, it will become clear which technologies demonstrate the most value for both patients and providers.
Many mobile device applications and peripherals are already showing their value. Mobile device attachments that function as electrocardiograms, blood pressure monitors, spirometers, blood pressure cuffs and glucose meters are transmitting vital signs data from patient to provider in real time and alerting them to worsening conditions.
Smartphone-based ultrasound attachments are being used to create images of pregnant women and internal organs such as the lungs, heart, liver and gall bladder to aid diagnoses. The University of Denmark is beta testing a smartphone-powered brain scanner. Caregivers in patients’ homes are also using mobile devices to update patient records in real time or teleconference with doctors to change the course of treatment.
Many healthcare organizations have turned to AirWatch’s healthcare solutions to secure mobile devices used in both clinical and nonclinical settings. AirWatch can assist with HIPAA compliance and other regulatory requirements by securing devices and applications that store and transmit electronic protected health information (ePHI). For more detailed information about how healthcare providers are innovating their practices through mobility, look for two upcoming AirWatch whitepapers on the subject, or visit AirWatch at HIMSS booth 3574.