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Advantages of home care


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As the name suggests, home care involves offering services to the client (patient) at their home. We usually associate it with the elderly. They are the fastest growing and most researched demographic group of healthcare service users and home care recipients. Home care can consist of non-medical care (housekeeping, shopping, appointment management) and medical services such as home health care. Home health care greatly reduces the burden of transporting patients between their homes and inpatient or outpatient facilities, and has plenty of other benefits as well. Read more!

In this blog you will learn:

What are the advantages of home health care?

Psychological and emotional wellbeing of staying at home

A survey of older adults (i.e. over the age of 65) in the United States found that 90 % of them want to stay in their home for as long as possible, and that approximately 80 % of them believe that their current residence is where they will always live [1]. However, many of them suffer from chronic diseases and conditions that require treatment or monitoring. Managing these conditions can entail regular visits to outpatient or inpatient facilities, where the patient may have to stay for several days; another alternative is home health care, which is associated with a number of psychological and emotional benefits for the patient. 

A familiar environment contributes one’s sense of identity and helps one remain socially connected [2]. According to research, higher satisfaction with one’s social network is directly linked to a decreased sense of loneliness [3]. Home health care is positively correlated with improvements in physical health, cognitive function and decreased depression [4]. The home setting is also more conducive to providing emotional support to elderly patients by their (professional) carers [5].

These advantages are reflected in indicators like hospitalisation rates. Studies show that users of home and community-based health care are less likely to require hospitalisation or institutionalisation than non-users [6]. Additionally, transitional home care (i.e. care after release from hospitalisation) is associated with a decreased likelihood of returning to hospital; this positive health outcome continues for more than six months [7].

Better quality of care

The most likely health issues of the elderly include heart disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, cerebral vascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), malignant neoplasms, hypertension, fractures and osteoarthritis. They can require medical attention skills beyond those of their designated carers, often family members [8].

Home care organised by or coordinated with the patient’s healthcare provider(s) can provide quality care and help mitigate two significant issues that often occur when treating elderly patients – transition and handoff errors.

Transition errors happen when a patient is moved from one level of care to another, one system to another (e.g. pediatric to adult care), or one institution to another. They manifest in various ways (e.g. medication errors). Handoff errors occur during the transfer of care and information about the patient in one institution, e.g. during a shift change at a hospital [40] [41]. Both error types can have serious consequences for the patients’ health, including misdiagnosis and adverse drug events. Generally, the elderly are more likely to experience medical errors overall; one of the contributing factors may be age-related declines in working memory, causing difficulties in remembering personal medical information. This results in the aforementioned types of errors [9] [10].

Poor communication can be mitigated by competent home healthcare providers, especially if they are equipped with electronic health records (EHRs), which decrease the likelihood of human error [11] [12] [13] [14] [15].

Higher level of safety

Home health care can empower elderly patients to participate in the treatment and management of their health issues in several ways. One is proper and safe use of diagnostic measurement devices for domestic use such as the blood pressure monitor. The importance of training the patients (and their family carers) in the use of even the simplest medical devices is not to be underestimated as it improves the patient’s ability to use the device(s), increasing its use and the patient’s satisfaction [16] [39]. It was also found that elderly users benefit significantly more from instructional videos than user manuals [17].

However, there is no substitute for medically skilled personnel when it comes to medication management, perhaps the most significant safety hazard to patients in home care. Many elderly patients take multiple medications (polypharmacy) for co-occurring health conditions (polymorbidity) [18][19]. Those medications may have serious side effects and can worsen the patient’s health or cause death. This happens if they are taken in wrong dosages, at the wrong time or in (accidental) combination with other medications or substances. Many elderly patients have difficulties with complex medication regimens, whether due to cognitive decline, an inability to correctly read the medication instructions (poor eyesight) or many other preventable reasons [20] [21] [22].

In such cases, the expertise of medically skilled personnel is required; non-skilled home health care providers are only permitted to transfer a medication from a container to the patient and nothing more. However, even medical professionals are not immune to errors, which modern technologies can help mitigate. The solutions range from EHRs to immediately sharing the diagnostic measurement results for a second opinion with a remote GP or specialist.

Reduced family stress

Family caregivers are often subject to chronic stress – with physiological, psychological and behavioural impact on their health and daily functioning. The negative effect is the most acute if the elderly patient has a life-threatening illness or a disability in addition to other health conditions [23] [24]. Studies have also shown that caregivers are more likely to die prematurely than non-caregivers (elderly spouses-caregivers have a 63 % higher mortality rate than their non-caregiver age peers) [25] [26]. Quality home (health) care by competent providers can significantly mitigate these risks, lowering the perceived burden and decreasing stress [27] [28] [29] [30] [31].

Is home health care cost-effective? Comparison with hospital care

How and to what extent home health care is organised and reimbursed greatly varies between countries. From a general (economic) perspective, however, home health care is normally cheaper than hospital care as attested by numerous studies; this holds for a wide variety of medical conditions [32] [33] [34][35] [36]. For example, an economic evaluation study of home health care for patients suffering from diabetic foot ulcers found that the average cost of home health care was less than half of what hospital-based care would require [37]. This cost-effectiveness (not just in treating diabetic foot ulcers) also holds for the combination of outpatient care and home health care. A large cohort study conducted in the United States found that, while the number of outpatient visits was higher among home health care patients, the total costs of these visits was significantly lower in comparison with a control group who weren’t the recipients of home health care [38].

Diagnostic devices for home care

There are various electronic devices that can be used for medical services in home care, and they are usually associated with the field of telemedicine . One way to categorise them is according to whether their use requires physical presence of the medical professional or not. One type is wearables – autonomous medical devices for non-invasive monitoring of vital signs and other parameters; they are worn either directly on the body or clothing. Another type is diagnostic devices brought by the medical professional (e.g. nurses) to the patient’s home to perform diagnostic measurements and transfer their results to a GP or a specialist.

The MESI mTABLET diagnostic system was designed to enable the latter type of telemedicine services. It needs to be noted that the same device can be used both at the doctor’s office and at home visits, so there is no need to buy specialised devices for home care services. A big benefit for the patients is that they do not have to leave their residences (including nursing homes) for basic diagnostic check-ups like the ECG, spirometry or the monitoring of certain chronic conditions. The elderly are also a population group at risk of Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD); automated measurements of Ankle-Brachial Index, Toe-Brachial Index and advanced arterial assessments with pulse wave velocity (PWV) can also be made on the same device. The diagnostic measurement process can be further optimised with the use of the Protocol app (for using and creating custom medical protocols) and the Photo app to monitor the treatment process of wounds and skin conditions.

All the measurement results are automatically saved in the patient’s EHR and are immediately available to other professionals with the necessary authorisations. The results can also be immediately shared with non-users of the MESI mTABLET, for example remote specialists; the recipient can view the full measurement result, but any sensitive patient data is anonymised according to the applicable legislation.

Would you like to know more about MESI mTABLET in home care? Click here!