Technology paces HME's future

Monday, July 25, 2016

As the HME industry tries to re-invent itself through new markets, business models, sales channels and product offerings, providers need to consider the importance of leveraging technology in all facets of their operations. Because, experts say, the transformation won’t be complete without it.

Despite a reputation for being technology-averse, the time has come for HME companies to overcome their skepticism and reservations when it comes to deployment of technology. Technology is a major part of the new landscape and providers need to harness it to boost their competitiveness, says Jeremy Malecha, vice president of global product management-healthcare informatics at San Diego-based ResMed.

“The healthcare industry is increasingly becoming more digital and data-driven amid pressures to cut costs and improve outcomes,” he said. “There is no indication of this trend slowing down, and for good reason—the $3 trillion healthcare industry is so large that if it were its own country, it’d be the sixth largest economy on the planet. We have an opportunity to make a real impact with technology-—specifically technology that can aid in clinical decision-making and help keep patients healthier for longer, while simultaneously reducing costs…and home care is no exception.”

A 2011 AARP research report spells out the advantageous position HME and homecare providers occupy by showing that 90% of people over age 65 want to stay in their own homes and 80% believe that is where they will live. Those statistics show universal support for HME and home care, Malecha says, adding that it is up to the provider community to capitalize on it.

“This widespread desire of Americans to ‘age in place’ at home means that homecare services will become increasingly ubiquitous in years to come,” he said. “As this trend continues, the demand for technology that can help homecare providers manage the large populations of people—baby boomers and others that are receiving care at home—will continue to rise as well.”

One attention-getting statistic in favor of technology deployment is the fact that 250,000 seniors are turning 65 every month. Combined with reductions in reimbursement and increases in accountability, technology can no longer be ignored as a vehicle for reducing costs while improving care, said Britney Treadaway, director of strategy and implementation for Toronto-based Ideal Life.

“The important thing is to find a technology solution that aligns with the strategic focus of the organization and provides value to clinicians and patients,” she said. “However, you can’t prove value without first setting financial outcomes metrics, and home care is notorious for promoting only anecdotal value.”

Technology’s role in hme

The marriage of information and clinical technology has produced devices and systems that provide a strong foundation for value-based care, said Jim Doty, senior director of field marketing for Murrysville, Pa.-based Philips Respironics.

“For homecare providers, technology is really helping to reduce costs by enabling remote patient monitoring, providing clinical insights to drive better patient outcomes, and connecting care teams to facilitate the collection and application of data,” he said. 

To be sure, connected health technology is playing a key role in achieving value-based care, and it is critical these advancements are brought into the residential environment, added Alan Bugos, head of technology and innovation at Philips Healthcare Home Monitoring.

“Leveraging home health technology helps provide peace of mind for both seniors and their caregivers by enhancing visibility and creating direct access to care,” he said. “Through increased visibility to a loved one’s current health status, caregivers can receive additional insights into what their loved ones are going through in real-time and clinicians can use predictive analytics to view data patterns and identify each patient’s individual needs, which could potentially lead to better patient care and improved outcomes. Additionally, home health technology helps reduce overall healthcare cost as data-driven insights can potentially lead to early interventions, reducing the need for acute care.”

The telehealth equation

Jason Goldberg, CEO of Ideal Life, can’t help but get philosophical when it comes to determining how the HME industry should use technology to assert its role in the vast healthcare continuum.

“The real objective is to go beyond the walls of the practice and hospital,” he said. “That is where patients spend 99% of their time.”

Telehealth is the key to health and wellness among the population, Goldberg said, and technology is the catalyst for deploying the right care options. Patients with chronic conditions are most likely to be monitored remotely and when done effectively it prevents costly hospital readmissions. Even so, the population segment that is middle-aged and at risk for developing diabetes, hypertension, COPD and CHF is where interventions can be the most effective.

“Technology has the greatest opportunity for that segment,” he said. “If those at risk are not monitored and treated, they will slowly deteriorate and end up in the chronic category.”

When evaluating telehealth and device telemonitoring, providers need to approach it with a new attitude, Malecha said.

“Providers should not look at device tele-monitoring as something that needs to be reimbursed,” he said. “New technology is really about using technology to improve how business is done. With communications capabilities integrated into many devices, providers are able to manage patients remotely and troubleshoot devices when needed. Medicare aside, the business-side benefits that come with leveraging technology are irrefutable.”

The future is here

Doty maintains that “healthtech” solutions represent the future of HME and that providers need to examine how it is shaping their role going forward.

“The future will be enabled by solutions that can effectively manage the growing requirements among all the industry’s constituents to support the best possible clinical interventions, healthcare delivery and patient engagement leading to the best possible outcomes,” he said. “However, a big factor will be how intuitive and easy the technology is to use—from all sides. Homecare solutions need to provide insight and feedback options to help providers manage a large population of patients remotely so they can spot trends and help patients who need extra support from afar. A seamless, well-integrated technology would enable HME providers to be more consistently engaged with their patients and use the data to help patients succeed in therapy.”