COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the world even several months after the pandemic started. Unfortunately, many nations may no longer be able to handle cases soon due to the increasing shortage of ICU beds and ventilators.
The overcrowding in hospitals may push people to delay or cancel hospital visits. Understandably, some people don’t want to go to hospitals in fear of contracting the novel coronavirus. But this can come with negative consequences.
One alternative to the problem is bringing clinical care to people’s homes. Hospital-at-home refers to hospital-level clinical services provided in the confines of one’s home.
How In-Home Care Works
The hospital-at-home model is a combination of telehealth, remote monitoring, and scheduled home visits. Telehealth is the use of technology to healthcare services remotely. Consultations are done virtually through video calls, voice calls, or online chat.
Remote monitoring is also important in administering in-home care. In most cases, healthcare practitioners can’t stay with patients in their homes 24/7. So practitioners use remote monitoring through smart technology, such as a smartwatch, smart weighing scale, remote electronic respiratory monitor, etc. These devices send regular updates to practitioners.
With the information received through telehealth and remote monitoring, practitioners can determine if a home visit is necessary. This may be done to administer medication or conduct tests that are unavailable remotely.
Benefits of In-Home Care
The hospital-at-home model is convenient for the vulnerable population, particularly the elderly and the immunocompromised. Also, this model of care ensures that people who live in places that don’t have nearby medical facilities still have access to healthcare. In the time of a pandemic, the hospital-at-home concept encourages patients to push through with doctor visits since it eliminates their fear of going out and going to hospitals.
Lower COVID-19 Risk
Because everything is done remotely, patients are at a lower risk of COVID-19 transmission. The only risk they’ll face is during home visits. And this risk can be addressed if both parties follow safety protocols, such as wearing PPE, hand hygiene, and proper disinfection at home.
Many patients get anxious when they go to the hospital for a consultation. Some fear getting a worst-case diagnosis or finding out that there’s something seriously wrong with their health. Others are just simply uncomfortable with talking to a doctor. And this anxiety is one of the reasons why patients skip consultations.
This anxiety can be eliminated by the hospital-at-home model. Patients feel more comfortable at home as it is their “safe space.” Also, they have their loved ones with them who can help them stay calm.
The cost of in-home care is relatively lower than in-patient care. Specifically, in John Hopkins University’s hospital-at-home model, early trials showed that it costed 32% less than hospital care, though more studies need to be conducted. The drawback here is that not all insurance plans cover in-home care by 100%. Hopefully, as this type of care becomes more mainstream due to the global pandemic, insurance companies will start including it in their plans so that patients can save more.
Hospital-at-home does have limitations. One of them is access to certain medical equipment. For example, one has to go to a hospital to access imaging technology like a CT scanner or an open MRI scanner, if they need to get scanned. Another limitation is time constraints. Some physicians may take more time to examine patients during virtual consultations. Latency during calls can also be a problem.
Given its benefits, hospital-at-home care shows promise. And with proper implementation and further development, this model of care can become mainstream in the future and save more lives by addressing bed shortages in hospitals.