When it comes to the ripple effects of deferred care, all signs point to an unsettling fact: The crisis doesn’t appear to be subsiding any time soon. The good news is that the mainstays of the COVID-19 pandemic—staying home, working from home—have also led to an acceleration in the use of digital health tools and telehealth care interactions, and healthcare consumers appear more comfortable than ever with receiving care from home.
That makes the utilization of in-home care a promising strategy for helping patients catch up on the care they’ve delayed. Let’s take a closer look.
Reviewing the deferred care crisis
As COVID-19 overwhelmed the healthcare system, providers put non-essential care on hold. Patients postponed traveling to doctors’ offices for vision, dental and physical checkups. Screening tests, chronic condition care and even surgical procedures were delayed. That put patients behind the eight ball in terms of timely diagnoses and treatments—leading them down the path to increased health problems and even death.
- Since the start of the pandemic, more than 40% of U.S. healthcare consumers have postponed care.
- One in every five households has recently delayed care for serious illnesses, including diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
- Breast and cervical cancer screening tests dropped more than 80%, according to the National Breast and Cervical Cancer early detection program.
- Over the next 10 years, more than 10,000 additional deaths from breast and colorectal cancer could be attributed to decreased screening and prevention during the pandemic, predicts the director of the National Cancer Institute.
The time is right for in-home care engagement
The outlook isn’t all discouraging, though. Remote care is poised to start closing the care gaps—and consumers appear ready for it. During the pandemic, many patients were forced to use remote monitoring and telehealth and, in general, they’ve liked it. And three-quarters of consumers surveyed by the PwC Health Research Institute said they were willing to get in-home care for needs ranging from a well visit to chronic disease management.
Plus, there’s solid science backing the effectiveness of in-home care. In randomized studies, patients receiving in-home care had lower mortality rates and an overall better patient experience than those cared for in-hospital.
Multi-modal in-home care can help overcome patient barriers
Of course, more factors are driving the deferred care crisis than the pandemic alone. Lack of transportation, mobility or childcare, for instance, can prevent patients from scheduling appointments or lead to cancellations. In-home care options offer an obvious solution for these patients—and provide convenience even for people who simply find it hard to fit office visits into their schedules.
Healthcare cost is an ongoing issue for many consumers, and in-home care can help here, too. For example, administering specialty drugs in patients’ homes instead of an outpatient setting can reduce the cost by $16,000 to $37,000 per patient per year. Another example: One study found that hospital-at-home programs can result in a 30% reduction in the cost of care while ensuring patient comfort.
As technology advances, in-home care offers an increasing number of options for providers and patients to pursue the kinds of care once only available in an onsite capacity, such as:
- Hospital-at-home programs
- Imaging and other diagnostics, including lab testing
- Modern house-calls for wellness visits
- Mental and behavioral health service
- Voice- and sensory-activated remote monitoring
- Medication reconciliation
- Nutrition support
- Preventive care and screening test kits
The methods for offering in-home care are likewise growing and expanding. Here’s a glimpse of a few solutions available today:
- In-person home visits by clinicians. Many medical conditions are suited to this approach, from a basic wellness exam to a blood pressure check to post-recovery treatment.
- Phone calls, text messages and mobile apps. A strategic combination of telephone conversations and text messaging can deliver excellent results in closing care gaps and could be useful in scheduling at-home care. (Seventy percent (70%) member activation rates have been achieved when calls are paired with text-based engagement solutions.) Mobile apps are also gaining ground for building in-home patient engagement. Finding the right medium and the most effective cadence will require testing and patient input; it’s important to ask people for their communication preferences and honor their response.
- In-home testing and screening. While at-home COVID-19 testing is becoming more common, it’s hardly the first use of in-home screening kits. Used for several years now, data shows that in-home kits are an easy, safe way to conduct certain types of preventive screening, such as for diabetic testing and even colon cancer screening.
In-home care and patient engagement in 2022
As effective as in-home care can be for addressing the deferred care crisis, challenges loom. For instance, while consumers are increasingly comfortable with taking more responsibility for their own care, not everyone has the same level of confidence. According to a survey by Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, 48% of Gen Z and millennials—versus 28% of seniors—say they feel confident using at-home blood tests, while half of all consumers are comfortable using at-home diagnostics.
The key to overcoming many challenges will be patient healthcare engagement. As Carenet Health CEO John Erwin has said, “The solutions are there, the partnerships are there or emerging, but they’re not well-activated yet … the engagement need is huge, especially as the industry works on addressing social determinants of health.”
This will require new relationship-building strategies. In just about every type of remote patient monitoring situation, consumer and clinical healthcare engagement is needed to help with adoption, activation, utilization encouragement, and ongoing monitoring and follow-up.
In-home patient engagement starts with understanding the causes behind both a patient’s personal obstacles to care—such as lack of transportation or fear of virus exposure—and any hesitancy surrounding in-home care options. Once these foundational concerns are known, engagement teams—including care coordinators, registered nurses and online physician consults—can provide education and information to help put patients at ease.
As part of optimizing in-home patient engagement, healthcare professionals must be able to speak in plain language, not jargon. They should have training in empathy, age sensitivity and cultural sensitivity. And they should be prepared to use these interactions to explore health concerns beyond the patient’s specific need at that moment and gather information to further personalize this and future interactions.
Another piece of the puzzle will be assessing your existing processes and procedures to remove friction and create positive in-home patient experiences. Consider what does (and should) happen at each touchpoint and how each connection could be made easier, more convenient or more patient-friendly. Brainstorm ways to add value. Use these ideas to rethink and refine your approach to in-home care.
An opportunity to manage the deferred care crisis
As consumers have become more accustomed to the use of digital health tools, in-home care is strongly positioned to help close the care gap—improving assessment and adherence, reducing cost and ultimately improving patient health.
Download the complete 2022 Healthcare Consumer Engagement Forecast for more details on this and six other healthcare predictions for 2022.
If you’d like to speak with our healthcare consumer engagement experts about in-home care or other outreach and inbound support needs, please reach out.