By – Runam Mehta, CEO, HealthCube
The concept of a family physician or doctor is not exotic to those of us who have grown up in a conventional setting – we are talking about an era long before clinics and nursing homes mushroomed by the dozen. There was a familiar doctor face who visited our homes, knew the family health history, and checked and treated everyone at home, unless going to the hospital was imminent. In this regard, home healthcare has always been the original practice. In today’s times, especially after the pandemic, this original practice is now being rediscovered and revolutionized by technology. While patient-centric care is essential when we look at tertiary care such as surgeries, buoyed by various factors, healthcare services that can be delivered at home are slowly moving back to the original practice. This is more so in the case of the elderly, for whom home healthcare is the way forward.
The years 2021-2030 have been declared the ‘Decade of Healthy Ageing’ by the United Nations. As per statistics, the proportion of elderly in India is set to increase to 13.1% in 2031 as per The Elderly in India report. All this underscores the growing importance of home healthcare for this geriatric population. The elderly can be treated at home for increasingly complex healthcare problems including chronic and contagious physical health issues as well as mental health ailments. The world has rediscovered an effective, scalable, sustainable, and easily accessible model of universal health coverage and things will only accelerate from here.
Factors driving the change!
Home healthcare can lead to faster recoveries given that people are treated in the place they are most comfortable in. The practice helps avoid the risk of infections and frees up hospital beds for those who need it the most. With the rise in demand, even healthcare providers have now become open to delivering care at home, and the technology is ready to support such initiatives through telemedicine and remote monitoring tools. From an operational perspective, home healthcare services are also more efficient, economical, and customizable.
About 15 years ago, home healthcare was considered a luxury, something only the affluent could afford, for specific illnesses or scenarios. However, the last few years have seen this segment grow significantly, more so in the domain of elderly care, led by home healthcare providers who are working towards streamlining and consolidating a predominantly unorganized segment. Modern home healthcare companies have expanded the coverage and brought several services under their coverage. The pandemic made these services a lot more relevant and made people adopt them due to the benefits on offer. Now, insurance coverage for home healthcare services is set to give the next big impetus to this segment.
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Technology as an Enabler
One of the major reasons for a shift to institutional care in between was that caregivers needed complete and real-time control over service delivery. When patients, particularly the elderly, are admitted to hospitals, they are constantly monitored by healthcare staff. This ability to monitor 24×7 and instantly respond to any changes in the condition of patients makes doctors feel in better control of the situation and that there are superior chances of a positive outcome for each treatment delivered. However, such an approach is not equally convenient or preferable to the patients or their attendants. They need to take time out from their regular life routines and are even exposed to potential infections in the hospital environment.
This is where technology has come as a game-changer and is helping bridge this gap in control. Doctors today have real-time access to information about the condition of the elderly which gives them control at par with what doctors usually have in hospitals. With time and the evolution of technology, advanced devices will facilitate greater access and give caregivers more control over service delivery. As we have already seen during the pandemic, technology is also helping in scaling the services quickly and extensively and this evolution will continue in the years ahead.
The Final Thoughts!
We are set to witness full-scale adoption and acceptance of home-based healthcare in another 10-15 years when those who are currently in the 45-50 years age bracket cross the 60-year mark and join the elderly population. Not only will they already be well-versed with home healthcare services but also have greater confidence in their accuracy and reliability. Thus, unlike the current generation which is transitioning to tech-assisted home healthcare, a few years from now, the elderly will already be supportive of a home-based healthcare delivery model for all non-critical care needs.