In recent years, there has been a lot of controversy in the healthcare system (high cost and declining quality of care) with more patients discharged for a home health care setup.
This is a matter of concern especially since recovery in the home setting is mostly dependent on someone else for continued care. Seniors living alone, for example, face this risk, medications can be missed, or a fall could happen in between (infrequent) visits.
Thus, with people’s busy lifestyle and the shortage of professional caregivers, many favor the growth of in-home care technology to receive care on an outpatient basis. This article discusses medical devices used for home health care and the envisioned future of health care.
Use of in-home medical device
Complex medical devices have been used in non-clinical settings for years such as ventilators, infusion pumps and dialysis machines; however, these devices were not designed for home use.
But with the demand for home health care, more of these medical devices are being redesigned for use by individuals at home. In addition, some medical devices have been produced to enable people to manage their health independently and at an affordable cost.
While the new technology enables basic home care, it cannot substitute for the more sophisticated capabilities of specialized clinical care of hospitals. But it is a worthy and viable alternative amid the rising health care costs.
Types of in-home medical device
The home medical device is classified into the following segments:
- Test kits – a wide range of urine testing and necessary blood detox kits to detect various chemicals and conditions (e.g. pregnancy, prohibited drugs, HIV).
- First aid equipment – used to manage injuries or temporary health conditions (e.g. bandages, heating pad, ostomy care, defibrillator).
- Medical equipment – used to support the performance of activities of daily living such as feeding, bathing, toileting (e.g. lift equipment, commode, urinal or bedpan).
- Medication administration equipment – devices used to administer medications (e.g. dosing equipment, medication patches, inhalers).
- Respiratory equipment – used to treat respiratory health conditions (e.g. ventilator, oxygen cylinder, nebulizer).
- Treatment equipment – used to administer a range of treatment therapies (e.g. IV equipment, dialysis machines, infusion pumps).
- Meters and monitors – devices and parts of the healthcare device used to determine vital signs such as blood pressure monitor, pulse oximeter, ECG monitor).
- Assistive technology – devices used to improve personal capabilities, such as sensory abilities or mobility (e.g. hearing aid, prosthetic device, wheelchair).
- Infant care – machines used to monitor and treat infants (e.g. apnea monitor, pulse oximeter, phototherapy).
- Telehealth equipment – used to collect data in the home setting and transmit the data to a remote monitoring site (e.g. cameras, sensors, data collection).
The future of healthcare
Connected care technology (or networked “smart devices”) is a technological advancement that will set the stage for transforming health care. Connected care technology – which includes secure and open data sharing and communication across users and health care professionals is seen as important in continuous care and the improvement of medical diagnostic systems.
In coming years, the healthcare industry will see a dramatic increase in remote patient monitoring in the home such as wireless electronics (e.g. wearable meters and portable mediaid sensors and monitors) and digital processes that support communication between a set of devices and remote health care providers.
Future technological advances will bring new devices such as Bluetooth connected pacemakers, medicine delivery systems, miniaturized medical devices and the multimillion-dollar robots for more precise and efficient surgical procedures.
The future of health care will be more connected and decentralized, with consumers having an active role in the delivery of care (preventive intervention or disease management), greater influence in patient data sharing, and able to live independently in the comfort of their home while receiving care.
Risks of home health care
There are critical gaps cited by health care professionals when it comes to medical technological advances and decentralised in-home care. These include human factor or user issues, device issues and environmental issues.
Users may become less diligent in maintaining their health when at home. Good assessment program must be in place to determine whether the home medical device is suitable for the individual (e.g. physical strength, sensory capabilities, knowledge of the device).
The condition of the residential environment may not be conducive to home health care or the use of the medical device (e.g. children in the house, low lighting, crowded space.) All these need to be considered and integrated into the assessment program to deliver the expected health care outcomes.