Josh Klein is the Founder and CEO of Emerest, Royal Care and U@PERKS.
Ensuring that the human element of care is present in every patient touchpoint is crucial to our role as healthcare providers. Humanity binds our practice together and motivates us to seek better methods and deliver better outcomes for our patients.
Our definitions of health and well-being have grown and evolved, and we must broaden our approach to care in response. That’s why the home healthcare industry must embrace an integrated care model—one that wraps physical, social and mental healthcare under one roof to create a holistic care environment.
Rather than just focusing on the clinical space, we must remember that it’s our job as providers to keep patients happy and healthy. One-and-done yearly physicals aren’t enough to address the array of health challenges we face. Instead, healthcare leaders must work together to adopt a multiservice care model that improves health holistically.
A coordinated mental, social and physical health approach is imperative to improving the total health of homecare patients. To execute this approach and realize its benefits, homecare providers must implement virtual care channels and innovative technology widely.
All too often, innovators in this space create technological solutions first and try to apply them to healthcare systems later. To truly integrate technology in a way that can serve patients and providers holistically, we have to start with the problems in the industry that we want to solve and then develop innovations that can deliver the integrative care we want.
Virtualization Of Care Enables More Valuable Integration
We witnessed an unprecedented rise in telehealth solutions over the past few years. The pandemic forced healthcare providers to work at speed to iron out the kinks and implement technology into patients’ healthcare routines. A study published by JAMA found that telemedicine encounters increased from 0.3% of all interactions between March and June 2019 to 23.6% of all interactions between March and June 2020.
Before patients were comfortable with virtual care and more appointments took place in person, touchpoints with physicians often focused on addressing one concern at a time. It’s a slow, one-dimensional system that was ripe for innovation.
As more aspects of healthcare take place online, the opportunity to streamline care under one umbrella with telehealth is emerging. Virtual tools can better enable healthcare providers to broaden healthcare conversations and include more facets of care in a single touchpoint, making it easier for patients to receive comprehensive care from one source.
Creative, Innovative Technological Solutions
As care moves to virtual spaces, providers have more—and better—opportunities to provide truly innovative healthcare experiences.
With the vast potential to apply new tools to the telehealth environment, the homecare industry needs innovators to unlock new possibilities within virtual health and build integrated care networks. Technology, when employed strategically and creatively, can provide several solutions that enable rich integration with healthcare providers.
Here’s just one example: Homecare patients desperately need social connections to ward off depression and loneliness, but it is difficult for them to come by given their care needs. For the home-bound, telehealth can be leveraged to connect patients with peers experiencing similar challenges, thereby broadening possibilities for social interaction.
However, it’s not as simple as installing new technology in a patient’s home and then walking away. Telehealth providers need to have a deep understanding of the patient groups they’re serving and the needs of the healthcare providers they’re working with.
Factoring in the context of the communities and resources available to your patient group will influence the solutions you offer. Innovators must make a concerted effort to understand the social determinants of health (SDOH) of the patient groups they’re serving. Ensuring that your solutions are built through the eyes of the patient instead of the eyes of the developer is the most important step in this process.
At the same time, we are seeing that homecare providers are striving to be more tech-forward and—specifically in remote settings—need accurate, real-time data from their patients. Innovators can meet those needs, for example, by providing Bluetooth-enabled technology solutions that give providers accurate insights within seconds of a healthcare intervention.
A broader approach to patient care supported by creative technical implementations sounds great, but to generate true buy-in from a swath of health stakeholders, technology needs to be developed alongside the entire ecosystem. By including patients, doctors, insurance providers and more in your internal process, innovators can create solutions that support integrated care models and lead to long-term health outcomes.
We’re already seeing tremendous results from integrated care approaches. Intermountain Healthcare began a project that integrates mental healthcare interventions into primary care practices. As a result, depression patients in the program were 54% less likely to have emergency room visits. Keeping patients out of the hospital is not only an indicator of their overall health but is also paramount to insurer investment.
We’ve seen significant growth in the mental health sector over the past few years, so its incorporation into clinical care is consistent with that focus. However, we’re only scratching the surface of integrated care models’ potential within homecare. As 360-degree care models become more commonplace, we as providers must continue to find ways to integrate different aspects of care into one touchpoint to create a streamlined patient experience.