If there was one industry that was turned inside-out during the pandemic, it was healthcare. No other service, trade or profession has been stretched to its limits the way healthcare systems have been. The coronavirus crisis saw hospitals overflowing with patients, a severe shortage in medical supplies, and a rising death toll with no end in sight. This immense pressure sustained over many months has forced the healthcare industry to thoroughly reexamine their systems and functioning.
The healthcare industry has changed considerably since the onset of the pandemic, and there’s been a renewed focus on healthcare services to cut costs from the bloated healthcare system. Doctors visiting homes to check on patients—something that was routine half a century ago—is making a comeback in a big way.
The Ease and Affordability of Home Healthcare Services
The emerging trend of home care providers has been helping cut down hospital expenditure significantly and it is also the fastest growing for a number of reasons, namely: an ageing population, chronic illnesses, and a move towards cost-efficient treatment. According to market research reports conducted by IBISWorld, the home healthcare industry has grown at an annualized rate of 2.2% to $96.9 billion over the last five years and is expected to grow stronger in the years to come.
As the pandemic eases up, the ageing population opts for home healthcare services with an increased access to Medicare and Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of the federal government.
What is Home Care and What Services does it entail?
Any professional support services, both medical and non-medical, that assist people dealing with disabilities or chronic health issues, tracheostomy and ventilator care, and those recovering from a medical procedure are most suitable for availing home care. Nurses, aides and therapists, in-home hospice care providers, and all health service providers who are responsible for short and long-term care of the patient, depending on their needs, make up the home healthcare industry. The different types of home care services include:
- Home health aide services/ senior care: These healthcare workers are responsible for personal care and companionship. They help with daily activities like cooking, cleaning and other household tasks.
- Private duty and nursing care: These healthcare workers help patients with chronic illnesses or disabilities in shifts, or on an hourly or long-term basis. Catastrophic, tracheostomy and ventilator care belongs to this type.
- Home health care: These are visiting nurses that are directed by physicians to help patients recover from illnesses or injuries.
Benefits of Home Care
The comfort of home and assistance with daily activities such as bathing, cooking, cleaning make home healthcare an attractive idea. It is a way to provide high quality care to patients post treatment, to assist them with everyday tasks, avoid unnecessary hospitalization, and even provide companionship. Therapy and rehabilitative services are part of this industry. Here are some of its benefits listed below:
- Reduce falls and rate of hospital readmissions: Since patients, particularly elderly ones, are prone to falls and injuries at home, home healthcare can be of great help. It is also known to aid with the quick recovery of patients.
- Assistance with housework: Patients don’t need to stay in hospitals to avail the services provided by nurses and caregivers. Home care services can help with everyday tasks of the patient and even with their housework.
- Families of patients can catch a break: Families of patients are under immense pressure due to round-the-clock caregiving. An attempt to make the patient’s life easier often happens at the expense of the health of the family. Home care providers can help them take a break and relax.
- Same, sometimes better, quality of care compared with hospitals: Hospitals are often busy, and even with dedicated nurses, patients may not receive the attention they require. A dedicated caregiver can meet the exact needs of the patient in the comfort of their home.
- Changing needs can be more easily adapted: Hospital treatments are often followed with a big change in lifestyle habits, which can be difficult to follow for the first few months at least. A caregiver can help remodel a living space and daily habits so the transition is not uncomfortable for the elderly.
Challenges in Providing Home Healthcare Services
Much like the pharma supply chain, the maturation of the home healthcare supply chain has also been on the back burner for a long time. A lack in advancements of healthcare supply chains has had serious consequences for patients—something that was hugely exacerbated by the pandemic. Here are some of the challenges pertaining to the healthcare supply industry that must be addressed:
- Equipment shortage – A shortage of life-sustaining and assistive durable equipment (DME) makes it challenging to manage the acute care needs of patients. According to an article by Harvard Business Review, this shortage in DME in the US is due to competitive bidding, leading to lower costs and lower quality equipment.
- Attracting and retaining staff – According to a report by Home Health Care News, the average tun-over rate of working staff is 64% making this easily one of the biggest challenges in home healthcare services.
- Poor technological infrastructure – The healthcare supply chains, up until the pandemic, were not given the kind of treatment they deserved. COVID-19 highlighted the many missing links that needed attention, including the home-based delivery system such as mobile labs and radiology, as well as at-home medication delivery.
Locus Solutions for Home Healthcare Services
Leveraging technology is one of the best ways to improve the healthcare supply chain. Smooth, agile and flexible supply chains not only reduce staff turnover but invite more skilled employees to the system as well. A robust logistics software such as Locus can help home healthcare supply chains in the following ways:
Planning and tracking orders: Locus route optimization software is a powerful analytics engine that plans out the routes of entire fleets while taking traffic, fuel usage and other such real-time variables into account. Locus’ geocoder simplifies complex addresses in no time and accurately puts them on a map so that medicines can reach the patient quickly, and in the first attempt. TrackIQ, with its data analytics capabilities, can help save time by analyzing metrics such as mileage performance and informing the patient of the Estimated Time of Arrival (ETAs) so they can plan in case of unavoidable delays.
Future-proofing your supply chain: Locus NodeIQ can help medical assistance providers and supply chain decision-makers create a ‘digital-twin’ of the existing network design of supply chains and run ‘what-if’ scenarios that help optimize them for the long term. FieldIQ increases operational efficiency by making use of Optimized Permanent Journey Plans (PJP) and Permanent Dispatch Plans (PDP), which can be customized to suit particular needs.
There are huge shifts taking place in the healthcare sector, and they’re not just because of the pandemic. On-demand healthcare systems are up and coming to fight a bloated healthcare system and an agile, flexible and smooth-running supply chain is vital to ensure their success.
Locus offers best-in-class logistics technology solutions to supply chain enterprises to improve last-mile deliveries. Get in touch with us for a quick tour of our solutions.