Shift to home from hospital care for patients emerging — study

Published May 9, 2021, 8:00 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

With the aid of technology, patient care is shifting from hospital setting to home and is proven to have better outcomes for patients.  

This was revealed by the largest global survey analyzing healthcare leaders, Philips’ Future Health Index 2021 report: ‘A Resilient Future: Healthcare leaders look beyond the crisis’ . The report is based on proprietary research across 14 countries, representing the largest global survey of its kind to analyze the current and future priorities of healthcare leaders worldwide.

Now on its sixth year, the report published by Royal Philips showed that patients prefer a virtual setting and walk-in clinics rather than a hospital setting.

This emerging trend of home care becomes more relevant following the pandemic that caused shortage in hospital beds and ill-equipped facilities.

During a virtual briefing, Caroline Clarke, market leader and EVP, Philips ASEAN Pacific, showed that the percentage of facilitating remote and virtual care is a primary priority now at 75 percent in India.

Caroline Clarke, market leader and EVP, Philips ASEAN Pacific.

Globally, the average is 42 percent in favor of home care and Asia Pacific is 43 percent. 

Clarke noted that India is not surprising given the current climate and the sheer size of its population and the challenges it is facing. 

She attributed this emerging trend to the growing aging population globally and increasing chronic diseases with hospital resources not enough to cope with the surging number of people seeking medical attention. 

But home care is not only about less cost, she said, but the fact that such environment offers better experience for the patient with family members around. “Releasing patients from hospitals to home as soon as possible also showed much better outcome in terms of recovery times,” she said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated radical shifts in care delivery for both patients and providers around the world and the Future Health Index 2021 report reveals that, as APAC’s healthcare leaders consider what comes next, many are pragmatic about where and how care is delivered. 

APAC’s healthcare leaders expect that, three years from now, on average around a quarter (25%) of routine care delivery will take place outside the walls of a hospital or healthcare facility, up from 22 percent today. 

Despite this, the study revealed that prioritization of virtual care is patchy across the region. Healthcare leaders in India are among the most likely of all countries surveyed to currently prioritize a shift to remote/virtual care (75%) – well ahead of the average healthcare leader response across the 14 countries surveyed (42%).  

However, countries in the rest of region are lagging behind with only around four in ten in Singapore (40%), around one in three in China (32%) and about one in four in Australia (27%) making it a current priority. There was no specifics for the rest of ASEAN countries.

The fall-out of dealing with COVID-19 could be what is distracting APAC’s healthcare leaders from making remote/virtual care a greater focus, with more than half (60%) saying that preparing to respond to crises is their primary priority right now and 58 percent citing the pandemic as the main external factor that is impeding their ability to plan for the future. 

There are also regional disparities in terms of how and where virtual care will be delivered in the future. 

According to the study, Singapore is blazing the trail for shifting routine care from hospitals to home settings  – while those surveyed in Singapore said that just 19 percent of routine care being provided outside of the hospital is currently delivered in the home, they predict that 45 percent will be delivered at home three years from now, a bold target which is far higher than the APAC average (18%).

By comparison, despite healthcare leaders overwhelmingly prioritizing a shift to remote/virtual care in India, only 5 percent see the home as a prominent location for routine care delivery three three years from now. Instead, most feel that ambulatory primary care centers like urgent care and walk-in clinics (57%) and out-of-hospital procedural environments like ambulatory surgical centers and office-based labs (33%) will be the focus in India.

Overall, the global leader in health technology said that despite the pressures of the past year, APAC’s healthcare leaders are confident about the future. 

Feedback from healthcare leaders – including executive officers, financial officers, technology and information officers, operating officers and more – explores the challenges they have faced since the onset of the pandemic, and where their current and future priorities lie, revealing a new vision for the future of healthcare. With a focus on patient-centred healthcare enabled by smart technology, their vision is shaped by a fresh emphasis on partnerships, sustainability and new models of care delivery, both inside and outside the hospital.

According to Philips’ report, nearly three quarters (72%) of APAC healthcare leaders are confident in their hospital or healthcare facility’s ability to deliver quality healthcare in the next three years.

Although this is overwhelmingly positive after the challenges of the pandemic, APAC’S confidence levels are slightly below the average (75%) healthcare leader across the 14 countries that Philips surveyed.  

The Future Health Index 2021 report also revealed significant differences in optimism across the APAC region, with many more healthcare leaders in Singapore (84%) feeling confident, compared to those in China (58%) and Australia (66%). 

“APAC’s healthcare systems have all shown resilience in their responses to the pandemic, however when it comes to confidence about the future, we’re seeing a mixed picture – with Singapore pulling ahead of other countries across Asia,” said Clarke.

“While crisis response will continue to be a priority for many healthcare leaders in the months ahead, it is important that they look to the future too, to ensure that they don’t fall behind in technology upgrades and progress towards healthcare digitization,” she said.

APAC’s healthcare leaders are second only to healthcare leaders in Europe when it comes to championing predictive analytics; 27 percent of APAC healthcare leaders agree that their hospital or healthcare facility needs to invest in implementing predictive technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to be prepared for the future. This is behind Europe’s 36% but far above the Middle East & Africa’s 6 percent. 

The investment in AI by APAC healthcare leaders is currently focused primarily on administrative tasks like automating documentation, scheduling appointments, and improving workflow, above clinical and diagnostic applications. However, this looks set to change in the near future as APAC’s healthcare leaders look to invest in AI to predict outcomes (33%), integrate diagnostics (33%) and for clinical decision support (26%) in three years.

Despite these ambitions, staff inexperience and staff shortages could impede progress, if not urgently addressed. Staff’s lack of experience with new technologies ranks among the top internal barriers impeding their ability to prepare for the future, with about half of APAC’s healthcare leaders (51%) citing it as a current impediment, whilst around one in four (26%) say that staff shortages are holding them back. 

Lack of training was also cited as one of the biggest barriers to the wider adoption of digital health technologies by nearly one third (30%), as are difficulties with data management (41%), likely relating to high volumes of data and a lack of clarity around ownership.

“The pandemic has confirmed the viability of remote care but dealing with the current crisis could be preventing many of APAC’s healthcare leaders from prioritizing this as much as they otherwise would. Likewise, staff inexperience and skill shortages risk hindering further digitization in the region if not urgently addressed. It is vital that APAC’s healthcare leaders invest in the right training to move beyond purely administrative applications of these game-changing technologies to unlock their full potential in the future,” said Clarke.