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Research Shows Home Health Care Healthy For Medical System

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

The world’s health care system is already strained by rising costs and a shortage of qualified personnel. A recent study by the RAND Corporation found that moving care into patients’ homes is fast becoming an alternative to the high costs of institutional care. The study also identifies home health care as a major shift in the structure of the health care system, warranting consensus between patients, health care providers, insurance companies and policy makers before it can become an effective solution.
“The aging of the world’s population and fact that more diseases are treatable will create serious financial and manpower challenges for the world’s health care systems,” said Dr. Soeren Mattke, the study’s lead author and a senior natural scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “Moving more health care into the home setting where patients or family members can manage care could be one important solution to these challenges.”

The findings are from a global study of the needs, expectations and priorities regarding home health care among key stakeholders in six countries – China, France, Germany, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States. Researchers conducted over 100 interviews with government officials, regulators, providers, insurers, manufacturers, distributors and patient organizations, as well as reviewing existing research about home health care. An increase in the world’s elderly population, coupled with better treatment for many diseases, is expected to increase the number of people living with chronic conditions and disability in the decades ahead, putting pressure on the finances and the workforce of health care systems. In the United States, for example, people age 64 and older represent 12 percent of the population, yet account for 34 percent of the nation’s total health care spending. In the United States alone, the aging population is projected to increase to 71.5 million by the year 2030, when one in five Americans will be age 65 and older. Home health care increases the chance for patients to age in place and avoid institutionalization.

While this trend sprouted in the developed world, it is increasingly taking root in developing and transitional nations. For example, Singapore has become the world’s most rapidly aging country and already 80 percent of all deaths in China are caused by chronic disease. Soeren Mattke, senior scientist at Rand said that, “by 2014, China will have more people living with chronic disease than the entire U.S. population.” The demand for non institutional care in these countries has spurred the development of the home health care concept. Home health care is an attractive solution because it empowers patients to self manage their conditions to a larger extent and helps to shift care from high cost institutional and professional settings to patients’ homes and the community. Such a change could both save money and ease pressure on health systems suffering from worker shortages and capacity constraints, researchers say.

The best evidence so far comes from the U.S. Veterans Health Administration, which uses remote monitoring equipment to help veterans manage diabetes, hypertension and chronic heart failure. The 2008 VA study of 17,025 home telehealth patients showed the devices cut the average number of days hospitalized by 25 percent and produced a 19 percent reduction in hospital admissions.
Home health care technology spans a broad spectrum from basic diagnostic tools, such as glucose meters, to advanced telemedicine solutions. Those advances have pushed the frontier of care management further into the home setting. The advances have the potential to not only support current care delivery, but to fundamentally change the model to a more efficient and more patient centered one, according to the report.

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About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

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