By 2029, when the last round of baby boomers reaches retirement age, the number of Americans 65 or older will climb to more than 71 million, up from about 41 million in 2011, a 73% increase, according to U.S. Census Bureau. A huge proportion of seniors will switch from commercial plans to Medicare, which provides the bulk of funding for home healthcare.
Under Medicare rules, physicians must write a prescription or order for home health services when a patient is discharged from a hospital. Medicare pays for up to 60 days of home health services if a physician certifies the patient needs the services and submits a plan of care. Patients may be recertified for another 60 days if physicians believe it is necessary.
National data shows that 20% of all Medicare patients are re-admitted to hospitals within 30 days and 33% are readmitted within 90 days, costing Medicare more than $17 billion annually. Cutting readmissions to under 5% could save billions of dollars, experts say.
Telemedicine in home healthcare is a relatively new phenomenon. We use the phrase “telehomecare” to describe telemedicine applications that are specific to the home health industry. Using computers and video equipment that transmit data, home health providers are now able to monitor patients and provide care at a much lower cost than before. In addition to observing and interacting with the patient, home health nurses use our integrated medical devices to assess clinical problems and health status. For example, blood pressure measurement is accomplished with a cuff and electronic stethoscope enables the nurse to listen to the patient’s heart and lungs. Measurement and transmission of temperature, weight, blood glucose levels, and pulse oximetry are all possible with the newest generation of models. In addition to monitoring patients with chronic diseases such as congestive heart failure and diabetes, telehomecare will create opportunities to provide care to high-risk patients typically cared for in the hospital. Telehomecare can also empower disabled persons, connect socially isolated individuals to their care providers, and support caregivers. The possibilities for improving healthcare are just beginning to be realized.