Homecare services could prove to be a game changer in the area of healthcare in India

Though India’s stature has grown globally, it still lags behind its western counterparts in many areas, healthcare being one. A conscious effort is required to fix issues related to providing quality healthcare to the population. Homecare services model, a proven concept in the West, could be a solution to the lingering problem.

Healthcare is a major concern in India, which is battling to provide quality care to its 1.2-billion population. Despite the best efforts of the government, situation has so far remained bleak. Numerous projects meant to give a fillip to the healthcare sector remain on papers only, with many getting mired in red tape.

The country is staring at crises particularly related to cancer and cardiac disorders. Hospitals in metropolitan cities and big towns are teeming with patients who travel from far corners of the country in search of high-end healthcare facilities. While participation of private sector has improved the condition by several notches, the burden is too gigantic to handle. Beds are either full, leaving no space for other patients in dire need, or hospital bills are too high for the patients to afford. Patients find themselves in lurch and the government is struggling to find a concrete plan.

There is an urgent need in India to provide quality and cost-effective care to patients. Homecare services can play a significant role in perking up the sagging condition of healthcare in the country.

After preliminary treatment at hospitals, patients can get further treatment, qualitatively on par with hospital care, at their homes. While such facility empties beds in hospitals, for patients too it is affordable as it cuts down various indirect expenditures, including the cost of hospital stay and travelling to and from the hospitals.

Homecare services can change the way healthcare is delivered in India. Healthcare needs to be patient-centric, which benefits them in more way than one. Providing treatment, along with mental peace, is the need of the hour. Homecare services offer these twin benefits simultaneously.

Creating capacities

As per a 2012 report by McKinsey and CII, the hospital bed density (per 1000) stands at 1.3 in 2010 against the World Health Organization’s standard of 3.5. Due to non-availability of beds, patients remain devoid of treatment, and in severe cases succumb to the diseases. The availability of home care creates capacities in tertiary hospitals. Post a major-surgery or when a patient is staying at hospital for the sake of care which can be easily replicated at home, then he/she is occupying a bed which can be used by a critically-ill patient.

Access to care

In India, patients move to metropolitan cities and towns from far and beyond to receive quality treatment. After the initial treatment, they continue to stay in hospitals for further treatment and care which could be handled at home if there are proper channels and arrangements for the same. The scenario is challenging. Homecare services successfully plug such loopholes. Doctors are kept updated about the patients’ conditions, so the treatment is doctor-driven.

Cost effective

Homecare services are cost-effective as they reduce the burden of indirect expenditure on travel to hospital and hospital bed, among others. There is continuous monitoring and so the chances of developing complications are remote, which at the same time cuts the probability of re-admission to hospital. Homecare services are 50-70% cheaper than hospitals.

Empowering healthcare manpower

The growth of homecare services market has expanded the horizon for healthcare professionals. As homecare service providers are present in segments ranging from oncology (cancer care), pulmonology (lung care), post-operative care (orthopaedics, cardiac, bariatric etc), critical care and palliative care, the scope for professionals in the respective fields has grown manifold. Even a 12th pass student can be trained to become a healthcare assistant. This helps in bridging employment issues as well. It is providing an altogether new stream of growth to all healthcare providers.

Besides, the chances of contracting infections are higher in hospital than at home, so homecare facilities are much safer. When India is gaining ground as a medical tourism hub, serious measures are required to provide quality and affordable healthcare facilities to the citizens also.

The concept of homecare facilities will turn out to be a game changer.

(The author is head, medical services, HealthCare at Home)