We are several years into the pandemic and the health sector continues to rely more heavily on home care solutions over hospital-based and face-to-face treatments.
We all know that the pandemic served as the impetus for the shift to home-based care, thereby highlighting the risks of contracting illnesses and hospital-acquired infections (HAI). The truth is that the risk of HAIs was high before the onset of Covid-19 and skyrocketed during the pandemic, exacerbating the standard infection ratio. As a consequence, people were and still are skeptical when going to hospitals. This change in behavior has led to a rise in adoption of home-based and telehealth solutions.
As such, the healthcare ecosystem was forced to adapt and create solutions for use outside the clinical setting. With the emergence of new technologies and capabilities, specifically within the infusion and drug delivery space, we can anticipate the move to the home continuing to grow in adoption. This shift will hopefully lead to improved and more personalized patient care.
The challenges of developing home-based care devices
Understandably, shifting care to the home is not an easy task for infusion therapy and drug delivery providers. Now, device manufacturers face unique challenges in trying to develop connected, self-administrated patient-centric solutions. Lacking access to patient treatment logs, safe administration and the difficulty in ensuring patient-adherence to medication regimens are just a few examples of the obstacles providers will need to overcome to help patients ‘self-treat’ at home.
It all starts with connectivity
In order to efficiently transfer infusion and drug delivery treatments to the home, clinicians must first be “connected” to the home. Having direct communication lines with home-based devices allows clinicians to review data and see patient treatment progress. This is especially helpful for medication adherence. Additionally, clinicians will be able to receive near-real time alerts, allowing them to act, from a distance, to better ensure improved patient outcomes. Increased data-flow will also give us a greater understanding of patient behavior, paving the way for improved treatment in the years to come.
Increasing transparency in home-based care
While hospitals have a controlled environment that collects and tracks data to make the patient assessment process easier, this is not necessarily the case in the home setting where patients are either left alone or have to rely on family to take care of them. This raises doubts and concerns regarding the accuracy of self-reporting, which often creates interoperability and reporting issues that result in gaps in the transfer of reliable data.
Increased access to patient data plays a crucial role in streamlining home care’s standard operating procedures. By incorporating smart sensors such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies, connected devices can be linked to the cloud and patient data can be transmitted to hospitals and clinicians. Data can then be accurately captured and easily shared between the patient, caregiver, and healthcare provider. Having access to larger data sets will enable doctors to view specific patients’ adherence levels and tolerability to specific medication regimens and adjust accordingly.
Keeping patient data protected
While added connectivity provides new capabilities, it also comes with new risks. Information leaks and cyber-attacks can put both providers and patients at risk. It is crucial that device manufacturers and providers understand the challenges involved and work together to mitigate data breaches. Luckily, there are global privacy and security laws like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that provide a framework for providers and manufacturers to follow. Secure privacy measures provide patients with a sense of confidence, and will help further their participation in their care journey.
The importance of ease of use
Drug delivery can be complicated and tedious. It requires patients to perform several steps to ensure successful administration, such as: loading the drug, choosing the right settings and dosage for the specific device, ensuring sterility of both the device and the drug and recording the dosage amounts and times given. To ensure patient-centric drug delivery in the home, minimizing patient interaction with the drug handling process needs to be a top priority. This step helps prevent basic user errors that can lead to confusion, frustration, and non-compliance.
Making subcutaneous drug delivery simple and patient friendly calls for on-body drug delivery devices. Wearable devices provide patients with enough discretion and flexibility to continue with their day-to-day lives uninterrupted. Creating a ready to use, pre-filled and pre-loaded device can offer a patient-centric solution that accommodates both clinician and patient needs.
By enhancing ease-of-use factors, such as adding touch screens, intuitive protocol instructions and safety embedded software, home-based patients using either infusion or drug delivery devices will be better positioned for success.
Staying connected and moving forward
The pandemic provided a unique opportunity for the health sector to evolve. By adding adherence and connectivity capabilities to home-based solutions, clinicians can maintain open lines of communication with patients, helping patients better care for themselves from the comfort of their homes. In return, hospitals will be able to focus on patients in need of critical care. In providing connected, home-based infusion and drug delivery devices outside the clinical setting, patients can feel rest assured that they will receive optimal care.
Photo: selimaksan, Getty Images