Home health care technology may provide a solution to concerns about how to sustain health care systems threatened by rising costs and manpower shortages.
The RAND Corporation study finds expanding home-based health tools could give patients a greater ability to self-manage their conditions in partnership with their medical providers, and help improve their health and overall well-being.
However, moving care to patients' homes would be a major shift in the structure of health care and can be accomplished only if consensus is reached between patients, health care providers, insurance companies and policymakers, according to the report.
"The aging of the world's population and fact that more diseases are treatable will create serious financial and manpower challenges for the world's health care systems," said Dr. Soeren Mattke, the study's lead author and a senior natural scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "Moving more health care into the home setting where patients or family members can manage care could be one important solution to these challenges."
An increase in the world's elderly population, coupled with better treatment for many diseases, is expected to increase the number of people living with chronic conditions and disability in the decades ahead, putting pressure on the finances and the workforce of health care systems. In the United States, for example, people age 64 and older account for 12 percent of the population, yet incur 34 percent of the nation's total health care spending.
Home health care is an attractive solution because it empowers patients to self-manage their conditions to a greater extent and helps to shift care from high-cost institutional and professional settings to patients' homes and the community. Such a change could both save money and ease pressure on health systems suffering from worker shortages and capacity constraints, researchers say.
Home health care technology spans a broad spectrum from basic diagnostic tools, such as glucose meters, to advanced telemedicine solutions. Those advances have pushed the frontier of care management further into the home setting. The advances have the potential to not only support current care delivery, but to fundamentally change the model to a more efficient and more patient-centered one, according to the report. Home care also makes it easier for patients to age in place, if they prefer, and avoid institutionalization.
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