Advancements in home health

Technology such as predictive analytics and AI will help strengthen services in terms of personalisation, accuracy, seamlessness, and cost-effectiveness

Health, Technology, Home healthcare sector, ICU, ICU at home, Stroke Rehabilitation, Oncology, Medwell Ventures, Vishal Sehgal, Portea Medical, Healthcare

The home healthcare sector in India has witnessed tremendous growth in the recent years. As per statistics, the home healthcare market is expected to reach the $6.21 billion mark in 2020. What is propelling the growth of the home health market in India? Firstly, it is the large and growing geriatric population. The population of elderly and those with chronic diseases is growing every year. Those over 60 are also more likely to get diseases which would require at-home care. As per estimates, by 2050, there will be 340 million elderly and many more needing critical care at home.
Secondly, there is the rising burden of chronic diseases and out of pocket nature of market, leading to the demand for cost effective delivery of quality healthcare services outside the hospital setting and ability of organised providers to offer highly specialised services such as ICU at home, stroke rehabilitation, oncology care and others in the comfort of the patients’ home. According to Dr Ferzaan Engineer, co-founder and joint chairman of Medwell Ventures, which offers home healthcare services under the Nightingales brand, “Increasing physician and patient awareness on the need for comprehensive disease management through trained caregivers, lifestyle changes are key drivers for home physiotherapy for both young and the elderly, given the rise of musculoskeletal diseases and faster rehabilitation requirements of orthopaedic and spine surgeries.”
Another important societal factor is a shift in consumer mindset to proactively manage health rather than disease.  “Quality supply is also driving demand as working professionals in India and overseas seek better care for their elders. Demand for such services will only increase with the socio-economic changes that are rapidly taking place. The incentives of our industry and that of the insurance companies are perfectly aligned - reduction in hospital stay, overall cost and time savings and closer monitoring of chronic cases over long periods of time,” said he.
Says Dr Vishal Sehgal, medical director, Portea Medical, “Though there is an increase in demand for home healthcare, the industry is yet to realise its true potential. In the Indian healthcare market valued at $100 billion, only 3% market is taken up by the home care segment.  There is thus a lot of opportunity that can be tapped into.”

Technology is a key driver for home healthcare to penetrate millions of homes and support the community with services which do not necessitate a hospital visit. Furthermore, technology is useful to complete the hospital-to-home continuum. With rapidly progressing technological advancements, experts envisage a huge potential to bring further improvements in the healthcare at home space, and scope to make the services even more affordable. Technology such as predictive analytics and AI will help strengthen services in terms of personalisation, accuracy, seamlessness and cost-effectiveness.
“Digital technology is propelling this sector to newer heights with upcoming advancements such as sensors to detect falls and missed medication; and a patient’s presence along with their sleep patterns, heart rate and other vitals. There are mobile devices that can help in remote monitoring of patients and allow for real time consultation. The key to quality home healthcare lies in accessing the right technology at affordable rates. This will not only help hospitals offload their burden of occupancy but also bring down cost of medical care, depending on the facilities and services availed,” says Dr Sehgal.
“HealthTech at increasingly affordable prices is being deployed on our platform. This includes proprietary applications such as remote patient monitoring, patient diaries and tools to ensure prescription compliance. This is impacting patient care in a major way and we are working closely with patient groups and hospitals to pilot and deploy our various offerings,” says Dr Ferzaan.
In terms of use of technology, how different in Indian home healthcare market as compared to the West? The Indian sector is very labour intensive when compared to the West. While in India, there may have a nurse to attend to the patient 24x7, this is not be so in a country like the US or UK. “In the West, more relevance is given to remote monitoring of conditions and vitals. Further, the Indian society is yet to accept full technology or machines working in lieu of manual labour or nurses,” says Dr Sehgal.
Apart from this, in the West, the patient is well aware of his or her condition. Data about their health metrics is collected properly. In the Indian context, the patients may not be so literate – there is also the issue of compliance. However, in cases of chronic diseases like diabetes, the rate of technology adoption is higher in India. For instance, in terms of checking vitals at home through glucose monitoring devices, etc.
According to Dr Ferzaan, “As a general rule, payors and insurance companies play a major role in western countries with a strong focus on incentivising patient outcomes. Complex interventions involving oncology, pulmonology and others  are offered more frequently in a home setting in certain western countries. This is, however, beginning to happen in India in terms of critical care, pulmonology and certain interventions for cancer patients.”
So how would the home healthcare services be in terms of technological advancements in the years to come?  Data will be a major driver for technological advancements in the future. To this end, Nightingales has developed an EMR platform to collect data in a systematic and compliant manner. “Data analytics and AI can then be used for improving patient outcomes and better understanding of disease patterns. In summary, the integration of patient monitoring systems, diagnostic technology and clinical decision protocols can lead to significant improvement in patient outcomes at a lower cost,” says Dr Ferzaan.
Technology is becoming an enabler in the way healthcare is delivered with robots and AI being used for different aspects of patient treatment and management. Be it patient care delivery or using analytics to deliver precision care, there is a lot that technology is doing and will do in the near future.
It is now also becoming possible to monitor patients at their homes without actually having to be physically present there. “Technology can certainly take home healthcare to greater heights.  However, the need of the hour is better regulatory standards for patient safety, training of professionals in the segment, and better employee benefits,” says Dr Sehgal.