Till a few years back, the Indian medical system had a grave shortcoming crying for attention – the absence of an integrated healthcare delivery system. The players operating in this space were neither specialised nor well equipped and the industry as a whole was fragmented and disorganised. But a lot has changed and the need for professional intervention has never been more strongly felt. The increasing elderly population, higher life expectancy, rise in the standard of living, increased spends on wellness and healthcare and the early onset of lifestyle diseases have been among the many factors that make it imperative for home health care providers to make an entry and take over exactly from where the doctors/hospitals leave. The idea is for healthcare providers across platforms and geographies to work collectively in making the recovery process faster, convenient and more hassle-free for patients.
To date, however, “integrated healthcare” continues to be a nebulous concept. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines it as the “bringing together of inputs, delivery, management and organisation of services related to diagnosis, treatment, care, rehabilitation and health promotion. Integration is a means to improve services in relation to access, quality, user satisfaction and efficiency.” This puts into perspective the many elements and aspects that come into play when attempting to decode the meaning of the term. Integrated healthcare is a unique information-sharing platform that facilitates a free flow of information about patient care and treatment across social, biological and psychological needs. The process involves the creation of a diverse group of members – physicians, psychologists, social workers, physical therapists and home health care workers – who often work together in different permutations-combinations.
At the very core of this working definition of integration is the idea of “continuum” of preventive and curative services that address patient needs over a period of time and coordinate between different levels of the healthcare system. This essentially means a willing connectedness of the different players in the medical ecosystem with the intention of providing patient-centric service. To this end, industry experts suggest that a handover directly from the hospital or treating specialist can aid the smoother transition from the hospital stay to home health care. This is particularly important for health workers involved in tending to patients who require life-long care due to chronic medical conditions or need the attention of a trained medical practitioner for an interim period – postnatal, child care, post-surgery, physiotherapy and the like.
For players operating in the home health care space, a tech-oriented interface is the first prerequisite – the idea is to keep the family updated on the patient’s progress and everyday activities on a daily basis. Not only this, a technology-driven space can also lead to a more frequent and substantial interaction between the many stakeholders in the medical industry. For instance, a portal that brings together doctors from across the country where they can share current research, new findings and recommend cases can help create a professional arena for knowledge dissemination and better patient care. Similarly, brands that extend the facility to customers to video call and consult a doctor, call for medical supplies, book appointments online or find medical equipment close to them are also aimed at integration. This has all been made possible by leveraging technology.
For the user, integration essentially entails healthcare that is seamless and easy to navigate. They want hassle-free appointment of caregivers and fewer visits to a health facility. Also, they want health workers to be well-versed in their ailment and medical history which is only possible if health care providers communicate effectively. The customer care team needs to be trained to understand patient conditions. Taking from a comprehensive download of patient’s medical records, the allocation of the right caregiver is also pertinent. One who understands the nitty-gritty of the predicament and has prior experience, technical expertise and positive customer feedback is the one to make the cut. Only companies who ensure a through a selection process and are trained to match patient requirements to caregiver expertise are the ones who can render themselves useful in the integration process. In short, the intention behind the delivery of care should be to reduce costs and develop a patient-centric approach to benefit the society at large.