In an article published earlier this year, Dr. Stephen Klasko, President and CEO of Philadelphia-based Jefferson Health and a leading advocate for transforming health care, coined the expression “healthcare’s Amazon moment". He was referring to the accelerated need for health systems and insurers to use technology and innovation to hasten the transformation from “sick care to person-centric health assurance”.
"This is healthcare's Amazon moment," says Dr. Klasko. "If you are a provider and think you're going to go back to your business model solely being based on hospital revenue and not relevant to people who want care at home, I think you will be out of business. If you're an insurer and think you can just be the middleman between the hospital and the patient, you'll be irrelevant. If hospitals believe that innovation can be just this cute little thing that they do in the background, but the real business is just getting heads in beds, they're nuts. I think we were always wondering what the big disruption would be that got us to join the consumer revolution, and I think this is it."
What were the main themes in 2020, and where will the focus be in 2021?
It's become clear now that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated on a vast scale the adoption of telehealth, digital health and virtual care capabilities in ways that most observers believe are irreversible. Moreover, as Dr. Klasko suggests, the concept of consumerism in healthcare has simultaneously peaked. As patients have gotten a taste of being treated and cared for outside of the typical ambulatory environment, the idea of “meeting patients where they are” has never been more relevant.
With this new reality as a foundation, where do we go from here? What trends will intensify in 2021? At this moment, it seems most likely that anything related to healthcare at home is poised to expand significantly. This includes: at-home health test kits (for COVID and other issues), with companies like LetsGetChecked, Nurx, Everlywell and Lucira leading the way; house calls and at-home primary care, featuring companies like Heal, Landmark Health, Ready and Firefly Health; and finally, the new ‘hospital-at-home’ concept and associated remote patient monitoring efforts, particularly in light of CMS’s new Acute Hospital Care At Home initiative that enables health systems to provide hospital-level care at home for more than 60 conditions.
Will hospital-at-home lead the charge?
One especially interesting hospital-at-home solution is the collaboration between Boston-based Brigham and Women’s hospital and digital therapeutics company Biofourmis. The solution allows clinicians to continuously monitor multiple physiology signals through wearable biosensors and peripherals, with this remote monitoring being supplemented by in-home visits and the patient’s care team. Studies done by Brigham and Women’s point to the significant promise that such an approach has.
In a study published earlier this year in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers found that the hospital readmission rate dropped from 23% to 7% while the mean cost of care per episode was 38% lower for home hospital patients than inpatients. Some pretty impressive numbers, indeed!
As Dr. Klasko predicted, this certainly seems to be a pivotal moment in the transformation of healthcare, as at-home and virtual care increasingly become mainstream. It’s exciting to imagine how deeply and quickly these approaches will be adopted in 2021.