Are We More Healthcare Dependent or Independent Now?

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been meeting with and hearing from many companies that are doing interesting things in the Remote Patient Monitoring and medical device space. There are some truly mind-blowing innovations coming that will make self-care and care-at-home more viable than ever.

My recent experience got me thinking about our dependence on the healthcare system. I’m curious to hear from the #hcldr community on whether we are more dependent on the healthcare system today or are we more independent of it?

Technology enablers

Over the past several years there has been an explosion in the number of technologies designed to allow people to care for themselves at home or have care delivered to them at home. We have smart mirrors, AI-enabled scales, affordable pulse oximeters, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, and a whole host of other devices designed for patient use.

We have come a long way from the Life Call necklace that you press to alert emergency services that you’ve “fallen and can’t get up”.

Power for Patients

As patients, we have never had the self-diagnostic capabilities that we have today. When you couple that with the wealth of credible healthcare knowledge that is just a few taps/clicks away, patients have not had this much independence ever.

This power for patients is fantastic. Not only can it help drive down the cost of healthcare for individuals, but it can also ease the burden of living with chronic conditions. What used to require multiple visits to a doctor or healthcare facility can now be done remotely via telehealth or in some cases without a consultation at all.

Unequal Distribution

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that the at-home technologies are not equally and equitably distributed. The cost for these new devices can be quite significant and beyond the means of those who are already struggling with housing and food insecurity.

It will be a challenge to drive down the cost while simultaneously increasing the distribution and access to these new devices.

Aging Population

While technology is helping to make us more independent of healthcare, our longevity is making us more dependent. We develop more chronic conditions as we age – conditions that require more advanced care that goes beyond what we can do for ourselves at home.

The latest projections from the United Nations show that the number of people over the age of 80 is expected to triple from 143 million in 2019 to 426 million in 2050.  It is my belief that many of these elderly persons will need support from advanced care in order to have a high quality of life into their 80s, 90s and beyond.

New Diseases and Conditions

Our recent COVID-19 experience has shown us how quickly a new virus/disease can spread across the globe. It is unclear whether there will be another such event in our lifetime, but the ease of air travel coupled with the interconnected global supply chain, means diseases can spread easier than in the past. When this happens, we will need to rely on our public health infrastructure and the healthcare system to get us through it.

Personally, I’m optimistic that we have learned important lessons from this pandemic and we will be better prepared should another one occur.

There are, however, other conditions that we are discovering that require advanced care: burnout, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, the list goes on. The good news is that we are discovering new ways to help people suffering these conditions, the bad news is that many of the treatments require care from professionals – thus increasing our dependence on the healthcare system.

Dependence vs Independence

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that relying on our healthcare system is a bad thing. I do believe, however, that the more we rely on our healthcare system, the more we will need to invest in it. I’m not confident we can sustain pouring $Trillions into a less-than-ideal healthcare system.

I am, however, encouraged by the strides we are making with care-at-home services + devices. For the first time in decades, I believe we have a reasonable alternative to 100% dependence on the healthcare system.

What do you think?

Join the #hcldr tweetchat on Tuesday February 16th at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) as we discuss:

  • T1 Are we more dependent or independent of the healthcare system today vs 10 years ago?
  • T2 Should “health independence” be a goal that we strive for as a society? Is that realistic?
  • T3 Is there a self-care device or service that you are excited about?
  • T4 What can be done to encourage the development of and the equitable access to care-at-home/self-care technology?

Resources

“Ageing”, United Nations, https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/ageing/, accessed 15 February 2021

“How COVID-19 has permanently changed patient behavior”, Accenture, 10 July 2020, https://www.accenture.com/ca-en/insights/life-sciences/coronavirus-patient-behavior-research, accessed 15 February 2021

“COVID-19 prompts increased focus on self-care”, GSK, https://www.gsk.com/en-gb/media/resource-centre/covid-19-prompts-increased-focus-on-self-care/, accessed 15 February 2021

Sedig, Laura MD. “What’s the Role of Autonomy in Patient- and Family-Centered Care When Patients and Family Members Don’t Agree?”, AMA Journal of Ethics, January 2016, https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/whats-role-autonomy-patient-and-family-centered-care-when-patients-and-family-members-dont-agree/2016-01, accessed 15 February 2021

“Promoting Independence”, RCN Magazines, 2018, https://www.rcn.org.uk/magazines/health-and-care/2018/promoting-independence, accessed 15 February 2021

Maitland, Lynn et al. “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Balancing Safety and Independence with the Frail Elderly”, Catholic Health Association of the United States, 2012, https://www.chausa.org/docs/default-source/general-files/6c937c9ef23c41f0a534e990c6a5082a1-pdf.pdf?sfvrsn=0, accessed 15 February 2021

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