For most of medical history, there was no such thing as a hospital. Even as recently as 1960, as much as 40 percent of a doctor’s work was done in patients’ homes. However, as the medical community learned more about the spread of disease and developed better equipment to treat maladies, the hospital became the go-to destination for ailing individuals.
Yet, the rising costs and complexity of American healthcare are dissuading many ill people from seeking medical treatment. Plus, with the rise of the Internet, patients have better access to reliable medical information from their homes. Thus, many doctors have once again taken to the road, and the house call has seen a resurgence in popularity and efficacy.
Homecare is an appealing reversal for the healthcare industry, and house calls may very well replace hospital and doctor’s office visits in the coming years. Here’s why.
Telemedicine and Its Promises
The idea of telemedicine is far from new. Few people have ever relished the idea of visiting the hospital, with its hours of waiting time, legions of sick patients, and its exorbitant costs, and since the earliest days of science fiction, people have dreamed of a service that would remotely connect patients and medical professionals.With the rise of the Internet and the ubiquity of digital communication, we finally have the available technology to make telemedicine a reality.
More and more healthcare facilities are adopting telemedicine as a way to interact with patients who do not require immediate treatment. Because these patients need not leave the comfort of their homes, telemedicine is viewed by many as a type of homecare. However, telemedicine has a significantly longer arm than homecare. Using the World Wide Web, doctors and nurses can converse with patients in different cities and countries. Healthcare shortages in some regions may be resolved by treatment provided by experienced professionals from across the globe.
Telemedicine comes in many forms, and draws on email, two-way video, smartphones, and other advanced technologies to ensure patients receive the care they need to be healthy. Still, there are quite a few limitations to providing medical aid through digital means. Doctors and patients alike benefit from hands-on interaction, which can elicit different diagnoses and treatments than care administered through screens. Thus, many healthcare professionals, riding the coattails of the telemedicine movement, have turned instead to house calls as a way to provide valuable, personal care to patients.
Improved Home Care Technology
In the past, a doctor on a house call would only have available the tools and medicines he could carry in his little leather doctor’s bag. Today’s homecare professionals might still tote around doctor’s bags — but they take a very different form. Instead of vials of stimulants and sedatives, homecare doctors and nurses employ a bevy of gadgets and software to help them provide the best possible care.
There are a number of pocket-sized devices that do the work of important tech in exam rooms; for example, the Vscan is a miniature ultrasound machine, and PanOptic is a small ophthalmoscope. Additionally, homecaretakers can make use of excellent homecare software to keep track of their patients’ regular needs.
Patients, too, can benefit from the improved homecare technology. Just last month, a software developer debuted an app called Heal which allows the ailing to summon a doctor to their homes using just a smartphone. Thus, the power of the Internet once harnessed by telemedicine is now used for better, in-person care.
Lower Expenses for Better Outcomes
Hospitals are massive, complex facilities that require hundreds of millions of dollars to build and maintain. Even doctor’s offices can be expensive due to rent and equipment. To recoup these costs, doctors must charge patients more for their services; however, homecare professionals usually do not maintain premises as they do the majority of their work in patients’ homes. Thus, patients can save as much as 19 percent in medical bills while enjoying medical treatment they need.
With all of these upsides, most people refuse to believe that house calls can provide the same level of care as established medical offices. While homecare professionals certainly cannot administer emergency medicine as well as well-equipped hospitals, plenty of studies demonstrate that house calls can be significantly more effective at treating acute and chronic diagnoses. Additionally, as might be expected, patients are usually dramatically more satisfied with their homecare experiences.
As the wheel of fortune turns, it seems that house calls and other home-based care is returning to prominence amongst healthcare professionals and patients alike. Soon, everyone should be looking forward to healing from the comfort of their own homes.