Despite the ugly and tragic implications of COVID-19, it’s also widely known Covid gave the health care system the kick in the pants it really needed to innovate. Most experts suggest the pandemic moved the healthcare dial five-years in a 12-month time span.
Whether the health care sphere will continue to evolve at a breakneck speed remains to be seen. And though I suspect it will slow down somewhat, we’re definitely not going back to the pre-pandemic “turtle speed” it was at. Transformation is in the air—sometimes in spite of the system itself. Though I’m not a “futurist” per se (I prefer the more actionable term “nowist”), if you’re in health care there are some clear trends your organization should be thinking about and planning for.
Health Care Trend 1: In-Home Health Hubs
Whether you call it a “Homespital” or “HomeCare 2.0” or an In-Home Health Hub, there are so many reasons why we’re going to see not just more home care, but a more sophisticated version of it. I’m pretty sure I could create a hundred whys and hows but here are few…
Virtual care isn’t just here to stay but will become the preferred healthcare visit method beyond Covid. Like office workers everywhere, a hybrid model of care is here to stay. There is still ample room for growth—from doctor’s appointments, to occupational therapist assessments, to remote patient monitoring—and I suspect virtual will permanently become the dominant model of care over the next few years. And though there are seemingly a packed house of virtual players out there, the recent spate of acquisitions (e.g. Maple bought Wello , WELL Health acquires MyHealth the list goes on…) suggest the future will whittle the field down with “beefed up” bigger players.
Though there still seems to be a somewhat myopic focus on long-term care (LTC), North America will finally stop gazing at European community care models like Buurtzorg and start building them. An exciting program on the horizon includes University Health Network’s Naturally Occurring Retirement Community or NORC project that is part of its Vertical Aging strategy, reimagining seniors communities in “the context of the tech-driven world of today and the near-future.” The plan brings together social and health supports, tech tools as well as activities to keep seniors active and connected to building units where a large percentage of the residents are instead of focusing on rolling out more LTC buildings and beds.
Wearables and tech integration aren’t just getting cheaper and easier, but they’ve caught the eye of retailers as well. In the U.S. Walmart Health is poised to get in the virtual space via telehealth provider MeMD and Best Buy Health Canada’s Assured Living home monitoring program. And that of course doesn't even begin to cover the plethora of cool tools and tech out there that can do anything from remind you about your meds to provide you with physio games to recover from surgery or stroke like the Evolv rehab system.
We’re starting to see comprehensive digital wrap-around programs like Baycrest@Home which includes activities for seniors, support for caregivers and services such as digital home assessments. The price may be a little steep for seniors on a tight budget (membership is $99 month plus additional costs for various services), however, it wouldn’t surprise me if government eventually piggybacks on this model to offer low-cost, high value support.
Do any of us really ever aspire to spend months in a hospital or years in a long-term care facility? Of course not. Not only is there evidence to suggest people do better at home, but of course there is the price tag that makes this a no-brainer based on these 2014 stats from Home Care Ontario:
• Hospital bed: $842 per day
• Long-term care bed: $126 per day
• Home care: $42 per day
And while I’d like to say that provincial governments are at the forefront of this trend, they’re not. Aside from ravaging people in LTC, the pandemic has sidelined discussions about the reallocation of funding. I have my theories about why this is so…but I suppose the silver lining of telehealth is that it may be the necessary gateway to increased homecare because it can still remain “hospital centric.” So, though the money will come from hospital (versus being allocated directly to home care agencies), it is more likely to be spent on services actually delivered at home.
Stay tuned for trend # 2 coming soon...and, as always, feel free to get in touch.