A recent poll by Gallup, showed that 70% of Americans believe the US healthcare system is “in a state of crisis,” or has “major problems.” This data is evidence that consumers believe the healthcare system needs substantial change. In addition, new reimbursement models are being implemented where healthcare providers become more accountable for the quality of care and well-being of patients. Technology solutions will play an instrumental role in helping to alleviate negative issues for patients, providers, health systems and payors. The healthcare system is also nearing a financial cliff, the current healthcare spend is 4.1 trillion dollars, expected to increase to 5.1 trillion by 2027, representing over 20% of the US GDP, which is unsustainable.
Issues plaguing the healthcare system
- Nearly 70% of the nation’s hospitals will end 2022 with negative operating deficits, according to projections released by the American Hospital Association. This could lead to closures, decreases in services offered, and potential collapse due to unsustainable operations.
- Staffing shortages have plagued health systems, forcing them to close locations and take emergency departments, beds, and other services offline. The budget allocations for contract labor has also greatly increased with the high cost, and necessity, of travel nurses / clinicians.
- Telehealth companies are extending their reach into communities, which absorbs paying customers from local health systems, with many remaining patients having limited or no ability to pay. At the same time, those health systems continue to invest billions of dollars in local healthcare facilities that require face-to-face visits, when the desire by consumers is virtual and remote care services.
- Cost of care is expensive for consumers, which can lead consumers to forgo seeking care, filling prescriptions, and other services. According to a 2022 survey by Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of adults stated it is difficult to afford healthcare costs, one third have skipped recommended medical treatment due to cost, and more than 40% of US adults have debt due to medical expenses for themselves or a family member.
- States scrambled to find solutions to provide adequate care, like waiving out-of-state licensure requirements for clinical personnel, or issuing orders requiring hospitals to accept transfers from hospitals with limited ICU bed capacity. During COVID, and recently with Flu and RSV spiking, hospital ICU bed availability dwindled. To help ease hospital capacity constraints, a special program was implemented by the government, Hospital at Home. This program allows hospitals to apply for a waiver to treat patients that require acute-level care in their homes, instead of in the hospital.
- Physicians reporting burnout is at an astonishing 63%. Burnout can lead to clinicians leaving the workforce earlier than typical retirement age, and 45% of practicing physicians are older than 55. This shows a large portion of physicians are nearing retirement age, while the nation’s aging population is growing.
- 10,000 adults are turning 65 everyday in the US. Older adults utilize the most healthcare resources, and many struggle to cover even their basic necessities. Medicare costs are expensive, there is a deductible to meet, and coinsurance with no cap for out-of-pocket expenses. Long-term care, vision, hearing, and other services are not covered under traditional Medicare. According to Genworth, the average annual cost of an in-home health aide is more than $54,000 a year, and a private room in a nursing facility is more than $100,000. These costs are not covered by Medicare. If you have less than $2,000 in assets and can qualify for Medicaid, the average waitlist for these services is more than 3 years. Older adults need affordable care options to help them age in place longer, and they need to receive preventative care services that can delay or help prevent the need for more costly care.
Technology solutions to improve healthcare issues
Data from home to help manage patients
Leveraging data from patients at home using technologies like remote patient monitoring, wearables, and sensors can enable passive monitoring, and collect valuable data to fuel AI / machine learning systems. Passive monitoring can be conducted across a large population of patients, allowing healthcare staff to more efficiently focus their time on patients that may need more attention. When patients do meet with their providers, the enhanced data insights can make those appointments more meaningful and efficient.
Personalized solutions allow for greater adoption and adherence by patients, empowering them to monitor their biometrics, and the education to better understand their conditions, promoting healthy behaviors and better self-management. This can lead to better outcomes and longer independence.
Cost-effective, actionable data coming from a larger population of patients can help provide early sights and situational awareness in the home in order to provide earlier interventions and “Just-in-Time” care. These early insights allow for the scheduling and use of “Fast Response Teams” to intervene remotely or provide on-sight stabilization and care, instead of transporting to the ED / hospital.
Connecting patients at home also improves access to care. For adults with limited physical mobility, those living in rural locations, and those located long distances from specialists - connected health tools can be a bridge to care providers and access to help and advice when needed.
AI can be utilized to streamline workflows, reduce staff burden, triage patient data, provide immediate feedback to patients and more.
Examples of AI in healthcare include the ability to use natural language processing to review patient messages and categorize need / route to appropriate personnel. This can reduce the time a staff member spends reviewing patient messages.
Patients with abnormal values and symptom survey responses can be segmented based on the severity of their vitals and responses. This allows healthcare staff to prioritize the high-risk patients more effectively. Advanced algorithms can predict readmission risk and help determine root causes for interventions.
AI-driven feedback can help translate patient measurements into healthy habits and provide the right education at the right time. Automating education and coaching can reduce the burden on staff members, and engage patients where they connect best by using omni-channel delivery methods for content and conversation.
Virtual care tools not only enable preventative care, but also allows clinicians to provide patients with just in time care. Timely care and interventions can greatly reduce the risk for readmissions and more costly care.
For some conditions, there is a high risk for readmission to the hospital following discharge. Monitoring these patients post discharge, and providing tools for some additional support, can greatly reduce the risk of a preventable readmission. The key is just in time care, and fast interventions.
These tools can help prevent more costly care and enable more patients to recover at home, as opposed to a higher level of care like a skilled nursing facility.
Wearable / Disposable technology for home
Patient monitoring technologies are becoming more sophisticated, more convenient, and less costly. Wearable sensors, that can be non-invasively worn on the body and then disposed of, will be more commonplace in monitoring programs. Continuous data collection, as opposed to a moment in time measurement reading, can provide a more holistic view of a patient’s health status. This has many benefits, including better medical decision making, and better adherence to monitoring programs for patients due to ease of use and convenience.
Adhesive sensors today can capture continuous ECG, motion, hydration, temperature, respiratory rate, and more. These patches eliminate the need for multiple devices, charging, batteries, Bluetooth pairing, and downloading apps.
In addition, this “lite” technology does not require the shipping of bulky and complex devices (Scales, Blood Pressure, Glucometers, Pulse Oximeters, etc.) as the first line of connectivity. Wearables, sensors and patches can be used to passively collect key, actionable data that is processed through AI / Machine Learning algorithms, identifying patients that need immediate attention, reducing the need to review data for the entire population, which is a barrier to scale. This first approach to acquire data is “exception based processing,” and allows for scaling to larger populations of patients, cost-effectively.
Given the wide range of electronic medical record systems, software systems, independent software vendors used within those systems, and cloud based services, data integration and architecture can be an arduous task.
Life365 has designed their platform to align with integration partners and system integrators who are ingrained in other systems. This allows data to be ingested, transformed into standardized formats, and sent to multiple endpoints for review, alerting, automation, analytics, reporting, and more. Life365 can partner with system integrators to increase the speed in which Life365’s platform can be integrated into existing systems. This allows for rapid customization and deployment, and cost savings for customers already working with a system integrator.
Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare leverages the Life365 Virtual Care platform, connecting their 300+ large enterprise health systems and providers to more than 400 medical devices and connectivity solutions intended for home use. Life365 enables Microsoft healthcare clients to access the Life365 platform in a variety of ways: 1) Azure Marketplace, 2) Co-Sell with 900+ Microsoft Healthcare Sales Executives, 3) ISV-to-ISV (Service Provider) Integrations, 4) SI (Systems Integrators) and 5) Integrated / Bundled Microsoft Partner.
See an example of Life365’s integration with Microsoft, HERE. Integration includes Azure Health Data Services, Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, and other suites of tools.
While we have a long way to go for improving healthcare in the US, implementing technology solutions can be an effective and affordable way to ease some of the issues facing the healthcare system and healthcare consumers today. Reducing costs, improving access to care, and improving the quality of care patients receive is a step in the right direction, and technology can be leveraged to realize these goals.