In 2016, nearly 2.3 million Medicare beneficiaries we discharged from the hospital with home health referrals, yet only 54% ever utilized home health services1. For the patients who do not use such services, after returning home, they often feel fine until their condition deteriorates, resulting in readmission, institutionalization, or even death. Several factors contribute to the underutilization of home health, such as incorrect or incomplete data, lack of patient education on the difference between non-medical and home health care services, or the distrust of an unfamiliar person in their home.
Despite patients failing to receive home healthcare, it significantly reduces readmissions and improves patient outcomes, especially when coupled with digital health tools like telehealth and remote patient monitoring. In 2012, the Independence at Home program was designed to test the effectiveness of home-based primary care, which led to beneficiaries having fewer readmissions, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits within a 30-day period2. The program also demonstrated the significant ability to improve the quality of care across all areas while improving the quality of life and comfort for patients. Traditional fee-for-service models have often limited the availability of such services, as providers would be able to see more patients in a day when conducting office visits. However, increased support and adoption of value-based care are improving access to home health options.
Digital health tools like telehealth and remote patient monitoring are also contributing successfully to the success of home health programs. In rural areas where patients may otherwise lack access to healthcare services required to care for their conditions, telehealth and RPM bridge the gap to ensure that all patients can receive continuous, quality care needed to improve outcomes3. In addition, digital tools can expand health education to previously underserved communities.
Before the pandemic, digital health tools were in play. However, they were infrequently and inconsistently applied. COVID-19 drove healthcare professionals to employ digital solutions rapidly to keep patients safe. With traditional, hospital-based care, patients often successfully maintain treatment regimens under the guidance of a healthcare provider but fail to maintain healthcare plans when they return to their home environments4. RPM addresses this concern by providing patients with a mechanism to receive consistent, quality health guidance as providers can monitor the patients’ health outside of regular visits. Patients are supported through self-management of their conditions, improving outcomes, and patient engagement.
While mainstream support for RPM tools was generated throughout the pandemic, many providers are looking to continue using digital health tools to meet the needs of patients5. Acute care can be more effectively delivered in a home setting, reducing overcrowding in hospitals and readmissions to improve patient outcomes and satisfaction with their healthcare. This empowers patients to remain at home longer by receiving quality care in the comfort of their home environment. In the future, advances in technology like artificial intelligence and machine learning will continue to improve the services available to patients at home, from monitoring their conditions to the diagnosis of new ones, to improve health and quality of life.