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Connected health:
Home health
technology
is improving
access to care

Author: Megan Williams

The pandemic might have spurred one of the most significant booms in home health technology in history. This is due in large part to the way existing technology has been used to enable care models critical to supporting hospitals and patients through a developing public health event.

The result has been the beginning of a new type of health ecosystem—one that takes increasing advantage of connected health technology to reduce costs, improve patient interactions, and support the patient and provider experience.

What is connected health?

Connected health makes use of technology that helps keep patients and healthcare providers digitally connected so that healthcare services can be administered remotely.

Home health technology supports aging in place

Most of the technology that has improved and expanded access to care during the pandemic has roots in efforts to support aging in place. These technologies also include the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), assisted living robots, provider apps and telemedicine solutions.

But digital solutions for older Americans has been a booming market for years now. Tech-savvy baby boomers prefer aging in place and are willing to adopt the technology needed to do it. According to Rock Health, the vast majority use home health technology to access medical information (78%), own smartphones and are bullish on the idea of aging in place. These trends have only accelerated because of COVID-19 and growing fears associated with long-term care facilities—senior occupancy has dropped to a 15-year low. Telemedicine service use has also ballooned, increasing 300% during the pandemic, a trend that is expected to hold strong.

Connected health and the technology that keeps it all going

The pandemic led to an increased use of apps, smart devices, and sensor-embedded technology that was used to detect early signs of the virus. One result was an expansion of interest in the connected health devices and home health technology that can help support remote monitoring long term. Providers are now working to better incorporate connected health technology into their practices and it is important to understand the core capabilities that are needed in patients homes as well as in practitioners offices. 

Connectivity

In the home, patients can participate in connected healthcare appointments using a smartphone or desktop computer that has a broadband connection to the internet via landline services or 4G LTE, 5G or WiFi wireless connectivity. Seamless, lower-latency connectivity is needed to support the data flow during connected health appointments.

Video collaboration technology

Healthcare providers need reliable video collaboration technology to support scheduled and ad hoc connected healthcare appointments. Healthcare providers’ use of video collaboration technology can help ease patient entry into the virtual appointment, and provide an efficient, simplified experience so the patient and practitioner can focus on the appointment instead of the technology.

Connected devices

For communities facing limited access to home health technology can help improve access to care through providers’ use of virtual physical exams or daily monitoring devices.

Remote patient monitoring has been an effective way to support equitable access to continuous care and management of medical conditions. This class of technology includes wearable heart monitors, maternity care trackers, glucose monitors and provider-facing solutions—all of which support clinicians retrieving accurate and sometimes real-time data when they need it.

Cloud computing

Healthcare organizations have been experiencing explosive growth in the amount of health data, to more than eight petabytes. While the technologies mentioned so far can generate large amounts of data that needs to be analyzed and stored, some healthcare organizations have now shifted to long-term, if not permanent, work-from-home models. These models can require employees to remotely access that data. 

Cloud computing allows organizations to handle the mass amounts of data generated by telehealth video appointments, remote patient monitoring devices and distributed healthcare administration—all to support the more widespread and increasingly refined use of home health technology in a cost-effective way, even if IT budgets dwindle.

Home health technology improves access to care

But the ways home health technology improves access to care aren't limited to technology. Advancements in care models themselves have fueled improvements in cost savings and the patient experience. During a pandemic that has stressed hospital resources, the hospital-at-home model stands out.

This model, first developed at Johns Hopkins, exploded in use during the height of the pandemic. The approach frees up hospital beds by shifting as much acute care as possible (including equipment like IVs, infusion pumps and EKG devices) into approved patient homes. Many patients prefer the option to distance themselves from the discomforts of hospital gowns, disruptions, roommates and the increased infection risk of a highly transmissible disease. But the benefits extend much further. Studies have found that participants sleep more and move around three times as much. Hospitals saw fewer readmissions and reduced mortality rates even while costs decreased.

Home health technology's impact on outcomes and cost savings

The pandemic is an incredible strain on a healthcare industry already pressed to cut costs and improve efficiency without sacrificing outcomes. Decentralized initiatives, though, have a history of supporting both goals.

Home health care has been found to save $7,313 per patient in comparison to emergency room visits over a 90-day period, according to findings from The American Journal of Accountable Care. Home health patients are also less likely to be admitted to the hospital, according to the report.

Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital found that costs for a care episode were 52% lower for acutely ill patients who received hospital care at home with no adverse events or impact on the patient experience. According to Health Leaders, analysts predict that these cost savings will continue through 2021 and beyond, potentially mitigating the impact of COVID-19 costs as remote care (telehealth) trends become more common and expand across medical specialties.

Discover how home health technology can help to improve access to care.