Home is becoming where healthcare is. This migration to home as a healthcare hub was already accelerated by an aging population wishing to age in place, technological innovations, the pursuit of reduced costs, and the shift to value-based care. It’s an industry shift now supercharged by COVID-19 for consumers, caregivers, providers, and health plans. Momentum is still building, and we must keep it going. Why? A truly connected digital health management engine could profoundly impact consumer engagement, consumer activation, care plan adherence, and improve care outcomes for all.
Ideally, the engine will help consumers organize and navigate their health journeys in partnership with their loved ones, providers, insurers, and support networks for more consistent, coordinated care and health management. Most importantly, it will make managing consumers’ health easier. For example, under this engine, consumers could more easily break down their care plans into clear and manageable steps. And, they could more easily receive guidance based on the latest information from trusted sources – information that’s ultimately personalized to their unique health situations. In this way, the engine would have great potential to enable – and encourage – consumers to learn and know more about their health and adhere to positive health behaviors. Also, this kind of information will ideally be delivered wherever and whenever a consumer wants it, via digital tools like TVs, smartphones, tablets, computers, smartwatches (and whatever cool gadget or tech innovation comes next). In essence, it’s about unlocking a positive consumer data loop to transform consumer engagement and drive empowerment.
Why Now Is the Time for Connected Home Health
Consumers Consume Differently
Pick any year in the past decade, and you’ll find a headline that says something along the lines of: Consumers Want More Control Over Their Health. Unfortunately, recent events have made about a quarter of consumers feel less in control of their health this year compared to last year. This is perhaps because the typical consumer manages an overwhelming amount of (often conflicting) information at once. A Google search of COVID-19, for instance, returns over 6.4 billion results.
Most consumers have grown used to a fast-paced instant lifestyle. Groceries delivered in two hours and one-day shipping for anything they want or need is common and expected. In short, consumers are getting exactly what they want, when they want it. That leaves health information purveyors with a very hard act to follow, as expectations of fast and accurate service are high and anything less is unacceptable.
More Caregivers Means More Burdens
More Americans take on caregiver roles each year. This role is incredibly hard. It’s often unpaid, unskilled, and generally conducted without the resources necessary to provide recipients with the support they need and request. Between 2015 and 2020, the number of caregivers grew by nearly 10 million – a number expected to keep rising.
Worthy of note? Commonly, caregivers for adult patients are as old as those for whom they support – many with their own health issues. In addition, over 60 percent are still working while providing care – for periods of time that are inching up over five years.
Many caregivers are managing difficult stress levels – physically, emotionally, financially, and the like. And this has a negative impact on their greater health. There’s a dire need to relieve this burden as ramifications can be serious. Feeling alone and unarmed, caregivers can easily get discouraged, and that discouragement can impact the quality of care they give and their impetus to give it; it also can cause a disconnect, interrupting the care circle. Easy access to others in that circle and the specific advice they need can reduce stress, helping them make more meaningful contributions to a recipient’s life while minimizing damage to their own.
Nearly 25 percent of unpaid caregivers care for two or more people.
Providers Must Step Up Their Digital Presences and Tools
Pandemic-related online usage means providers must truly ensure their digital experiences are high quality, versus “good enough for now” to remain competitive.
Given interruptions in the normal patterns of healthcare related to COVID-19 and consumers’ attempts to keep up with the large amounts of sometimes conflicting information surrounding efforts to deal with the unknown, it will be necessary for providers to re-establish themselves as trusted sources for patient information and care. This means executing informed outreach in the form of guidance that acknowledges and addresses a consumer’s needs. This combination, experts say, indicates an effective – and impressive – “digital front door” will be key to creating the online experience that drives a positive reputation.
Payers Must Engage Patients Earlier Than Later
Although healthcare payers have long promoted health self-management and medical adherence, they’ve struggled to engage and motivate their members. That’s because, historically, some consumers of digital platforms were met with generic guidance and benefit lists that weren’t always applicable to them. This created distance between payers and consumers, rather than draw consumers in. It also created failed levels of provider guidance.
Payers and other stakeholders can perhaps expect 2021 to bring a continued emphasis on a process where patient engagement technology and connected health starts before the patient health journey even begins. Technology provides access to information at all times, not just during provider visits and phone conversations, but whenever and wherever needed. The pandemic pushed more consumers to discover this fact – and benefit – opening the door to further use.
Another benefit of the past year is the emergence of new avenues for member engagement. Consumers are eager to adopt home health, have embraced the use of technology in their healthcare journey, and want a deeper relationship with the people responsible for their medical care.
This makes superior member service a key differentiator in a consumer-driven industry, as patients see their needs met.
The Future of Connected Health
A confluence of ongoing and unexpected phenomena has altered the concept of “healthcare delivery”, reversing the pipeline between consumers and providers and bringing more care home. This trend brings enormous benefits to all stakeholders. It will take all stakeholders – supported by technology and digital solutions – to fulfill this promise.
For consumers, this means maintaining a stated commitment to the awareness of self-care. For caregivers, this means taking advantage of available resources to lighten their load. For providers, this means capitalizing on the opportunity to deliver individualized care at a greatly lower cost. For health plans, it means delivering member services to support this conversion. For all, it boils down to collaborative medicine, connected health, and a collective stake in a new future for healthcare.