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Telehomecare Requires Simple, but Secure Technology

Offering telehomecare services is achievable and beneficial for provider organizations and patients.

The global home healthcare market is expected to reach $349.8 billion by 2020 from $227.5 billion in 2015.1 This growth is being driven by numerous factors, including rising senior populations, need of cost-effective healthcare delivery due to increasing costs, rising incidences of chronic conditions and technology advancements.

Among these advancements include telehealth technology, such as video and web conferencing platforms, that can be easily accessed from patients' homes for telehomecare. With a minimal number of clicks, seniors or any population of patients can interact with a provider without leaving their home and receive the same quality of care as an office or in-home visit.

Finding the web conferencing technology that will be ideally suited for telehomecare, the senior populations, patients receiving chronic conditions management and other primary users, may not be easy. Due to the growth in the telehealth and home healthcare markets, many web conferencing solutions are trying to adapt their technology for telehealth applications. Healthcare providers would be wise to seek technology designed specifically for healthcare delivery for maximum efficacy, security and to encourage adoption from providers and patients.Telehomecare

Seniors "Aging In Place" Creates New Opportunities
A recent survey indicates that 83% of retirees have no plans to leave their homes.2 This trend presents a challenge for providers in helping these patients live independently while understanding and adhering to their complex treatment plans. On the other hand, "aging in place" also can present significant care quality and cost savings opportunities for patients and the provider organization if the right telehealth technology is utilized for telehomecare.

SEE ALSO: The Role of Telehealth in the Move to Value-Based Care

The main benefit for patients is that they can stay at home for 75% of the office visits that do not need to be conducted in person.3 Avoiding that travel can be less costly and disruptive for those who have mobility or transportation challenges. Due to this convenience, seniors and other patients may also be more inclined to access care if they have a health complaint, which can help providers detect the early stages of a serious condition or complication.

Identifying a complication after a hospital discharge is particularly crucial in light of the significant readmission penalties provider organizations face from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP). This year it was announced that more than half of the nation's hospitals -- 2,597 -- will be penalized as much as 3% of their total Medicare reimbursement for having too many patients readmitted within 30 days from discharge.4

Post-discharge monitoring to help avoid these penalties could be supplemented through telehomecare, offering providers an earlier indication if a patient is struggling with recovery. The provider can then order an intervention that would likely be less costly for both the provider and patient than an emergency room visit and subsequent readmission.

Ideal For Chronic Condition Management
Even if the patient is not recently discharged, telehome health can help manage numerous chronic and other conditions requiring specialized care. Patients with aphasia and associated conditions resulting from stroke and traumatic brain injury, for example, are receiving telehomecare from The Big Sky Aphasia Program, a clinic based in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at the University of Montana in Missoula.

The clinic delivers a variety of aphasia services to patients, most of whom are adult stroke survivors who have communication disorders, such as trouble speaking, reading and writing. The program's clients typically live in rural regions and cannot access high-quality speech therapy services due to distance, transportation or medical issues. Web conferencing technology connects these patients with their therapists in a personalized, remote integration at a lower financial and time cost to patients.

Apart from speech and language therapy, telehomecare can also be ideal for monitoring chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and diabetes, as well as non-emergency consultations, follow-up appointments, health coaching or any type of service that does not require physical examination or contact.

Simple Operation Encourages Engagement
Regardless of the patient's condition, the telehomecare technology offered to patients needs to be a simple, easily configurable platform that can also deliver high-definition video and audio for a personal experience that more closely simulates the medical office environment. Whether patients are using a desktop or mobile device, a highly intuitive user interface, even for a non tech-savvy population, can help them focus on their condition and encourage greater patient and provider engagement.

Security, however, is also crucial. Seeking out web conferencing technology that exceeds the technical safeguards of the HIPAA Security Rule related to authentication and encryption is important.

With a positive user experience and secure data exchange, offering telehomecare services is achievable and beneficial for provider organizations and patients. Advanced web conferencing technology can be the bridge that connects providers and patients to help reduce avoidable readmissions and improve patient engagement and outcomes.

Tom Toperczer is director of product management for Brother. With more than 20 years of experience in the video conferencing industry, Toperczer supports the company's OmniJoin division that develops video web conferencing solutions with a growing healthcare segment.

References
1. http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/home-healthcare.asp
2. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/retirees-clear-in-new-survey-we-want-to-stay-in-our-homes-300273026.html
3. http://www.poweredbyc2.com/2015/06/11/is-telehealth-becoming-the-new-norm-in-patient-care/
4. http://khn.org/news/more-than-half-of-hospitals-to-be-penalized-for-excess-readmissions/

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