If the current COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that critical hospital capacity can quickly become saturated in times of crisis. On several occasions over the past two years, this has led to delays in standard care to make room for extra capacity in intensive care units (ICU).
However, we know that moving care out of hospitals does not have to mean compromising on quality or on patient outcomes. In fact, many patient communities are now accustomed to being treated outside the hospital setting, ensuring safe and continuous care during the pandemic – and beyond.
For example, in Belgium more than 150.000 patients are diagnosed with sleep apnea and they are all treated at home with medical devices, according to a recent infographic published by beMedTech (the Belgian national association of medical technology industry). Similarly, almost all patients in need for oxygen therapy receive the treatment at home via dedicated home care providers. Even a more complex therapy such as kidney dialysis is taking place at home in nearly 1 out of 10 dialysis patients.
This need does not represent a compromise on optimal care. You might be pleasantly surprised to hear that many patients are happy with the quality of care they can avail of without traveling to a busy hospital. Indeed, when delivered by providers with the right expertise and tools, homecare can improve patients’ lives and deliver superior results. It is also a more cost-effective solution for many types of care, making budget available for other treatments and therapies.
While Belgium has explored the shift from hospital care to home care e.g. via pilot projects, we know there are still many hurdles to overcome. That is why beMedTech has launched a social media campaign to put homecare in the spotlight. Built on our Home Care Roundtable Report, it sets out the current state of homecare in Belgium, explains the benefits to patients and health systems, and provides a series of recommendations on how to go further, faster. The campaign includes videos, testimonials, reports and infographics shared on social media in November and early December.
We are calling for a clear legal framework with which all actors should comply. This would ensure that the responsibilities of all actors are clear and support the highest quality standards. In addition, beMedTech would like to see our health system evolve towards a hybrid hospital-homecare model which could be adapted to suit each patient and disease area.
There are other gaps to be filled before homecare is more widely available to more patients. These include the need to finance homecare activities more directly. We also need to invest in digital infrastructure and training so that patients have access to the latest innovations wherever they receive care.
I believe that homecare services can actively contribute to appropriate and value-based healthcare for patients, while working more efficiently. To make this a reality, and catalyse the uptake of innovative tools, we need to work together to raise awareness of the benefits of homecare and the steps we can take today to improve the lives of patients.