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What does the future hold for home healthcare in India?

By Thiyagarajan Velayutham, Founder, IHHC| December 29th, 2017

An article published in ETHealthWorld, July 25, 2017, by Elizabeth G. Clark (Healthcare Project Leader, Boston area, USA) and Irving Stackpole (Healthcare and Seniors’ Housing Consultant, Rhode Island, USA) highlights certain key points:

  • India is a growing market for home healthcare
  • Home healthcare is gradually and steadily finding its niche in the Indian healthcare system.

According to a press release from the Government of India, the key points from the “National Health Policy, 2017: UHC and affordable quality health care services for all” are as follows quote/unquote:

  • To promote quality of care, with a focus on emerging diseases and investment in promotive and preventive healthcare
  • Offer access and financial protection at the secondary and tertiary care levels, free drugs,free diagnostics and free emergency care services at all public hospitals
  • Envisage private sector collaboration – financial and non-financial incentives to encourage participation
  • Allocate a major proportion (up to two-third or more) of resources to primary care, followed by secondary and tertiary care
  • Propose establishment of National Digital Health Authority (NDHA) to regulate, develop and deploy digital health across the continuum of care

So, while this is an all-round perspective on the healthcare industry, what is the diagnosis and emerging trends as regards a specific sector: The home healthcare segment as a service provider in India and the size of the home healthcare industry in India?

What has led to the rapid growth of home healthcare in India?

Here are some of the key issues that have impacted the growth of this sector of healthcare:

  • Patients come into the Emergency Room (ER) because there’s no one at home to take care or watch over them
  • There is a need to provide better care for people, especially the elderly, by managing their care proactively and not reactively
  • There isn’t a lot of awareness or information about the benefits of home healthcare within the Indian medical community or the Indian public
  • Medical and clinical professionals are spreading the word amongst the medical fraternity on how home healthcare can play an important role in helping to better manage the patient and reduce the overall spend on healthcare by reducing hospital admissions

Will home healthcare be the next best thing on the Indian healthcare horizon?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the following numbers clearly show the healthcare scenario in India. To quote WHO:

  • The doctor patient ratio in this country is 1:1674 – much below WHO’s prescribed ratio of 1:1000
  • It spends about 1.4% of GDP on healthcare – half that of China
  • Its healthcare spend is one-eighth of developed nations such as Britain
  • Globally, home healthcare segment is 3-6% of the total healthcare market.

This is a nascent market that has just one way to go and that is upwards.

Key focus areas in the Indian home healthcare market

With an aging population and therapid increase in various types of chronic illnesses, there is an urgent need for quality healthcare. Private sector medical institutions and government hospitals are unable to cope since the average Indian finds them not easy to access. That’s why the Indian home healthcare industry has a massive market to grow in.

Sophisticated and technologically advanced medical gadgets makes it easier to monitor patients, regardless of their location – even for the most chronic and serious illnesses including Alzheimer’s, heart failure, stroke rehabilitation and respiratory failure.There are many advantages that home healthcare services offer and for which customers are happy and willing to pay for, including:

  • Convenience – cuts down on travel time and expense
  • Provides personalized attention on a one on one basis
  • Recovering in the familiar and comfortable environment of one’s own home

Chronic diseases are becoming very prevalent and home healthcare can make a huge impact in the management of these diseases for patients at home, so that they don’t need to go through recurrent hospitalizations.

Basically, in the interest of the patients, and with the focus on providing the best, most relevant and affordable healthcare for the Indian citizen, healthcare must move out of the hospital systems and into patients’ homes wherever appropriate. Home healthcare should become a key pillar in the healthcare ecosystem of India.

The role of technology in providing home healthcare services

As this section of the healthcare services mature, we see home healthcare using more and more technology.

  • Technology influences logistics management because using technology optimizes productivity
  • Technology is used for providing clinical care – starting with devices that enable remotely monitoring of the patient
  • Technology enables mobile devices that can be monitored from anywhere by clinicians and paramedical staff – a huge advantage in the treatment of chronic diseases

Some key areas in which technology can play a huge role is:

Monitoring the patient: Through wearable devices that can detect falls and other emergencies.

Safety: Alarm systems that can actively detect fires or floods; systems that use motion and heat sensors, to distinguish between heat that occurs during meal preparation and heat that builds up if a person forgets to turn off the stove.

Security: Camera systems that allow remote monitoring of residential spaces and visitors.

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