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Is home the best place for healthcare right now?

Reeling under the onslaught of the virus and with the healthcare system stretched beyond its limits, home healthcare services promise a world of wellbeing

Is home where the best healthcare is?
Is home where the best healthcare is? (Pexels)

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Thirty-two-year-old Prakash Mehta from Bengaluru has been suffering from kidney failure for the past three years. He had to access constant dialysis treatment to aid his kidney function in the last year. While Mehta and his family were fighting this issue, coronavirus was a bigger threat to the country. Reeling under the onslaught of the virus, the healthcare system was stretched beyond its limits and was on the verge of a breakdown.

With hospitals becoming a breeding ground for the virus, Mehta’s family opted for the next best medical treatment—home healthcare. “My mother consulted our family physician and contacted a private healthcare provider,” he says. Soon the entire paraphernalia of dialysis treatment was made accessible to Mehta at his Indiranagar residence, surprisingly at a fraction of the cost of a private hospital. “I could have timely access to hygienic and professional healthcare without the risk of the pandemic,” says the animation professional.

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Homecare is a concept that allows patients to access healthcare in the comfort of their homes. The rising cost of healthcare has made it difficult for the common man to access quality healthcare. Homecare has its benefits as it reduces secondary infection since cross-contamination is less and reduces stress on the patient and the family. “With the advent of tele-ICUs, ICU care has now become relatively inexpensive. Our usual homecare package ranges from Rs2,000-10,000 per day depending on the complexity of the patient and level of care or equipment needed,” says Mudit Kumar Singh, co-founder of the Delhi-based Osvi Healthcare that offers professional medical care at home

Chandigarh-based Zorgers, an eight-year-old healthcare startup, raised an angel round from investment firm Ritu Marya Family Office this month, intending to create an active workforce of one lakh trained caregivers by 2025. The startup currently has a fleet of 4,500 healthcare professionals across the country. With a presence in Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh, it is mulling franchisees in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Kolkata.

Homecare is completely transparent, and these days, many insurance companies are also coming forward to offer support for home-based treatments. Osvi co-founder Preeti Raghav says, “We offer many services at homes such as doctor visits, lab diagnostics, x-ray, ECG, dialysis and complex procedures like Central Line insertion and tracheostomy tube change with its management at home.” She further adds that if a patient’s condition deteriorates while in home care, they are immediately shifted to a hospital so that proper resuscitation can be done. “In the last three years of our existence, we have created more than 1,200 ICUs at home,” she says.

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Expanding the healthcare sector, especially in times of the pandemic, is the need of the hour and the way forward. Homecare also assures emotional support. During serious treatment, the patient is often disoriented. Being in familiar surroundings reduces anxiety and aids in faster recuperation. On the other hand, hospitalisation implies a loss of independence and also affects mental wellbeing. As per a December global study report published by Precedence Research, titled, Home Healthcare Market by Type, Device and Services: Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2021–2027, increasing healthcare expenditures are driving demand for low-cost home health services, especially for long term care. In addition, a rapidly ageing population along with the growing trend of nuclear homes boosts the market growth for home healthcare. As a result, the home healthcare market size is expected to surpass US$ 662.67 billion by 2027, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.2 per cent.

Dr Mahesh Joshi, CEO, Apollo Home Healthcare, says, “Continuum care/homecare in most instances refers to post-hospitalisation care. However, it also covers predictive and preventive care. When there was a surge in Covid cases, the healthcare system faced a staffing challenge as well as pressure on medical equipment and even the availability of beds. Many patients also avoided going to the hospital from fear of infections. It is here that homecare plays a critical role as a bridge to connect patients with hospitals and ensure continuity of care."  

In June 2021, Apollo Hospitals launched the ‘Advanced Covid Care beyond Hospitals’ program that delivers timely treatment at home for Covid patients. This system ensured regular monitoring of patients through video consultations by specialised doctors and timely identification of potentially serious complications. “While India accounts for 20 per cent of the global disease burden, it accounts for only six per cent of global hospital beds. The homecare concept complements the overall healthcare delivery system,” says Joshi. Homecare ensures that patients continue to receive care even at home, with digital technology serving to update the doctors of the patient's status. In cases where chronic care is required, homecare also helps to reduce the time and money spent on visits to the hospital.

“With lifestyle diseases on the rise and increased life expectancy, we see more patients landing up in hospital for treatment. Patients with stroke or heart failure require long ICU care, which involves huge expenses. In this scenario, homecare has come as a boon. It is personalised and affordable care in the comfort of your home,” says Dr Anjali Kaul, Medical Superintendent, Artemis Hospitals, Gurgaon. Timely follow-ups in chronic cases and for elderly patients, reduced healthcare cost, shortened length of in-clinic stay, less clinician burnout, lower mortality rates, more clinical contribution, increase in outreach, and more efficient output are only some of the advantages of accessing home care services.

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“I have been regularly accessing dialysis treatment weekly for almost a year now. I’m scheduled for surgery sometime next month. For post-surgery care, we have again opted in-house treatment. It is not only professional and timely but also makes me feel mentally relaxed as I’m away from the intimidating hospital environment,” smiles Mehta.

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