Connected home health: how telehealth is enabling patient care in homes

Christiana Voelker, healthcare industry lead at Avanade, spoke to Information Age about the value of connected home health for patients and providers

Whether a patient has a chronic condition such as cancer or heart disease or has just been discharged from inpatient surgery, connected home health allows patients to receive the care they need at home. Care at home continues to emerge as a viable option to help keep costs down and still provide care to millions of people who would rather be in their homes.

Now with cloud and data science capabilities, the capability to receive care at home is more prevalent than ever. Healthcare professionals can accurately monitor the conditions of patients and administer much needed personalised care and treatment that might otherwise have been done in a hospital.

According to Christiana Voelker, healthcare industry lead at Avanade, “connected home health is providing a higher level of care to more acute patients in their home than previously possible”.

Voelker added: “We’ve seen demand particularly across payer provider organisations that provide not only patient services, but also insurance coverage. Connected home health capabilities help to lower the overhead of hospitals and offices, which can really help these organisations control costs.”

Benefits for patients

Demand for care at home has been increasing largely due to the pandemic and the risk of contracting the virus particularly for patients with underlying chronic conditions. People also want more choice when it comes to their own care. This has led to providing treatment at home including chemotherapy and dialysis.

The home-based care model has also shown to help improve patient outcomes, lower costs and enhance the patient experience. Patients can be surveyed where they are most comfortable. “Cancer patients, for example, want to be treated in a safe environment. They need to know that their chemotherapy is going to help them without any further risk,” said Voelker.

Benefits for clinicians

With connected home health technology becoming more prevalent, the benefits are being seen on the clinician side of operations too. Healthcare staff in some cases feel safer about treating patients in their homes. Remote patient monitoring, artificial intelligence (AI) and the cloud infrastructure allow for increased efficiency, and cost savings in the process.

Additionally, hospitals have frequently become overrun in recent times, leading to the need to maintain healthcare services remotely. This way inpatient capacity to treat a patient does not have to interfere with a provider’s ability to care for patients particularly those who are chronically ill.

Voelker explained: “We have many technologies that have come out over the last few years that have enabled remote health monitoring, IoT devices and virtual care. In addition, equipment such as oxygen tanks and IVs can now be much more efficiently monitored and administered in the home.”

Finding unexpected high value use cases

Among the key use cases for connected home health that some people don’t necessarily think about is post-operative incision checks — it’s vital that incisions are checked after surgery to avoid these don’t reopen or become infected.

“Patients often don’t realise the importance of getting seen for this visit, to make sure that everything is properly healing without complications,” said Voelker.

“If the patient cancels that visit or is unable to attend, we would help deploy clinicians to the home so they can do a quick incision check.”

Such a check entails measuring incisions, taking photographs, and documenting results via a software solution that can add this data to the patient’s record. This is usually carried out around a week following the operation, according to Voelker. From here, the need for readmission, and any subsequent costs, drastically decreases.

Powering clinicians and patients

As the leading provider of Microsoft technology, Avanade works closely with healthcare providers and Microsoft to empower clinicians and specialist technicians in the field. Avanade has developed app solutions with a dedicated administrative command centre for managing scheduling, deployment and communication between patients and caregivers.

“This helps to efficiently deploy not only clinicians, but also physical therapists, respiratory therapists, and mental health counsellors, among other staff. Any service that can benefit a patient in their home can be bolstered by coordinated field service capabilities.” Voelker explained.

Voelker added: “We have really helped patients and providers use technology to help address healthcare challenges and deliver top notch care in an efficient way to patients in their home.”

Continued connectivity

Looking towards the next five years, Voelker sees connected care for acute conditions (sometimes referred to as ‘hospital at home’) continuing to rise as tech and devices evolve.

“When there are more and more smart devices in the home, or smart technology to diagnose and monitor patients or deliver medication, this all further enables care at home in general,” she explained.

“Many patients want to share data from their devices with their healthcare providers, but it can be overwhelming for those companies when looking to make use of it. We could see changes in how we monitor and act on remote monitoring data.”

“As AI and machine learning get more advanced, we can outsource how that data is processed to algorithmic models, allowing for better monitoring of patients in their home that relies less on people.”

The goal is not to replace people working in the healthcare sector, but to relieve strain on those members of staff, many of whom are susceptible to burnout and resource shortages.

The trend of increasing device connectivity in the healthtech space is sure to be driven by the innovations of tech providers such as Avanade. It will be up to healthcare staff from care providers to use these tools in the most valuable ways possible to deliver strong patient outcomes.

This article was written as part of an awareness campaign with Avanade. If you’re interested in learning more, please find our latest e-book, conducted with Avanade to explore what’s next for digital technologies in healthcare, here.

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.