“Hospital-at-home” care could be the future for patients with acute illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, and asthma, according to a report by The Washington Post, which overviews the growing phenomenon.
The reasons are simple. Public health facilities are often filled with germs and noisy, putting vulnerable patients at risk for infection, lack of sleep and other complications. Several recent studies have been testing the benefits of at-home hospital care — where doctors and nurses are deployed to patients homes once or twice a day to perform needed tests, treatments or blood work before leaving the patients to recover. Many of these programs affix wireless patches to patients’ skin to track their vital signs and instantly send updates to the hospital. Patients are also often given access to 24/7 telemedicine in case they have any health-related questions.
Brigham Health in Utah was one of the first health systems in the United States to encourage certain patients to opt for hospital-level care at home. The approach is already common in places like Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada. A 2016 study by the hospital, which analyzed 20 at-home hospital patients, found that there were no adverse events; however, their treatment costs were significantly lower (about half that of patients treated in the hospital).
The study showed that labor costs were far lower for at-home patients as well. Home hospital care also required fewer lab tests and visits from specialists. What’s more, patients said they were just as satisfied with their care and were more physically active during their illness.
Even so, there are plenty of hurdles to overcome before hospital-at-home care becomes available to many U.S. patients. For one thing, many insurers won’t cover it. Many health facilities — accustomed as they are to a traditional business model — are also wary of the practice.
At-home hospital care is currently available in New York City, Salt Lake City, and a few other select places.