Technology, Accessibility, and the Pursuit of More Human Care
We don’t have to go back too far in modern history to find a version of healthcare that looks dramatically different from what we see today. CMS, Medicare and Medicaid have only been around since 1965. It wasn’t until the 1980s that computers became ubiquitous across hospitals and private practices. And in 2004, only 20% of physicians were using an EHR. In the last two decades, we’ve seen a dramatic and constant integration of technology into the practice of medicine.
The application of technology and scientific advancement in the pursuit of health, healing and well-being is one of the highest uses for innovation. As an industry, we’ve developed countless life-saving measures and improved mortality rates across the board. Through interoperability, cloud-based computing and artificial intelligence, and of course, telehealth, it’s become exponentially easier to view and share medical records, communicate with patients and fellow providers, and ensure that clinical decisions are taking into account the latest research.
Technology has moved progressively into healthcare, first in the form of diagnostic and therapeutic advancements, and then in the experience of locating, navigating, and paying for care. Now, spurred by the effects of Covid-19 on our industry, that technology-enabled healthcare experience is moving into the home.
An Accessible Experience is a More Human Encounter—For Everyone
The shift to care at home enabled by technology is inherently more accessible, as it brings the services to the consumer and place where they are needed. This shift is also more human. When we activate the home as the site of healthcare, we change the nature of encounter. In a facility, the provider is in charge, and the patient is a guest. Large buildings and wait times often feel intimidating and cold, setting patients on edge. But when that interaction is within the patient’s home, whether through an in-home visit or a virtual one, everything changes.
That healthcare exam and conversation takes place in the patient’s domain—with the loved ones including caregivers, pets, and surroundings that make them feel comfortable. When care is at home, the provider has access to the real-world data about a disease or ailment, as well as the context of the patient’s daily life. The patient can experience the comforts of home: to sleep in their own bed, eat home-cooked meals, move more, and be surrounded by their loved ones. These daily activities provide an advantage that facilities cannot.
Within care-at-home models, clinicians notice a difference in how they relate to and interact with patients. One nurse working in a Hospital at Home program reported that seeing patients in their homes surrounded by family helped her rediscover her compassion and sense of connection to her patients: “I had gotten to the point where I didn’t care what happened to patients in the Emergency Department. But after connecting with patients in their homes with their families, I better understood why they are the way they are.”
These personal experiences and connections, mediated by technology for biometric monitoring, personal emergency response, patient engagement, and telehealth, open up a world of possibilities for what it looks and feels like to engage in healthcare—especially for the chronically ill and elderly consumers who use healthcare services the most.
Beyond Monitoring and Telehealth: The Care at Home Ecosystem
For care-at-home experiences to be human from the first touch, we must activate an ecosystem of technology, people, and services to keep consumers at home, ensure technology is working, and enable clinicians to focus on delivering personalized, humanized care.
“I felt like I was their only patient,” recalled one man about his treatment in a Hospital at Home program. This feeling of human care will disrupt the healthcare industry for the better. But it takes a village to create this experience, and we must tackle real challenges to get there.
When we relocate care outside of the controlled environment of a facility, we find that the biggest challenges are the non-clinical ones: managing logistics, activating and supporting technology and connectivity in the home, and orchestrating care and services at scale.
These challenges will be offset by the opportunities to change the current state of care. Collaborative partnerships and new ways of delivering care are essential for solving these challenges – with the consumer pulling for care at home. The next generation of more connected and more human healthcare experiences is waiting on the other side.
About the Author
Jean Olive is the Chief Technology Officer for Best Buy Health responsible for technology strategy and architecture, product design and delivery, digital transformations, and operational excellence. Jean’s career has been centered on global companies with a mission to improve and save lives where she progressed through a variety of engineering, supply chain and leadership positions at Raytheon Technologies, Royal Philips, and Schneider Electric.