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Hallway Healthcare 101 – Can Automation End Hospital Overcrowding?

For years we have been fighting over the ever increasing problem of hospital overcrowding. While patients in our rapidly aging society are frustrated with wait times, governments are frantically trying to find money to build capacity, rather than taking a serious look at reducing the need.

A recent article by Rob Ferguson[1] in the Toronto Star, highlights that ER facilities often run at 100% or greater capacities. The solution stated by Ontario’s health minister, Christine Elliott was “To end hallway health care we must build capacity in the system”.

While this sounds reasonable to some, it’s the same approach used by politicians since public healthcare came into existence in Canada.

Hey politicians, wake-up! It does not work. The problem continues to grow each year.

Let’s throw more money at it

This is the classic narrative. While we are adding $Millions to the healthcare budget, the distribution of funds to the best resource is a difficult endeavor. As an example, Hillcrest Hospital, in Toronto, is receiving $6.4M to help 580 patients move out of the hospital. That’s $11,034 per person. When these patients move out, the hospital will fill up again.

Would it not be more prudent to explore alternatives like funding or subsidizing digital health technologies to keep patients at home longer, cared for, monitored and comfortable? If it takes $11,034 to move someone out of a hospital (not including the cost of treatment) would it be attractive to spend much less to prevent those folks from entering the hospital to being with?

$167 Billion is the current, public health care budget. It’s estimated that we will need to come up with an additional $93 Billion  to just service our seniors population in the next 10 years[2].

Technology to the Rescue?

Many patients seek admission to the hospital because they do not have easy access to a family physician. Many do not even have a family physician. Seniors are more prevalent in the ER than other age groups. Some go for legitimate medical emergencies but others could be seen by their local pharmacist, a first responder/paramedic or even virtually, with telemedicine devices in their own home.

Politicians spend so much time negotiating free trade agreements around the world, but when it comes to home, meaning provincial borders, they turn a blind eye. Telemedicine faces large, mainly political, obstacles providing care across provincial boundaries. We need new federal legislation to allow free trade for these health care services in Canada. A physician or specialist in Vancouver should be able to service a patient in PEI, get paid, and want to help more. Let’s make our politicians address these real issues rather than the partisan rhetoric so common this election year.

A medical device to improve medication adherence, support telemedicine, remotely monitor and report on patients can be a lifesaver.

It is commonly quoted that up to 30% of hospital admissions are due to medication non-adherence or errors. Simply taking medications on time, as prescribed, can keep folks out of the hospital.

So, how can we successfully end hallway healthcare?

  1. We can keep ourselves and seniors healthier.
    Diet, exercise and medication adherence programs are proven lifesavers. Eating right and exercising helps to maintain mobility, stamina and balance. Studies have proven that even the simple act of taking medications as prescribed, on-time, significantly reduces hospital readmissions.
  2. We can help seniors remain at home longer and others be treated at home.
    Seniors want to stay at home. Keeping seniors at home not only improves their quality of life, in addition it reduces the cost to the healthcare system. Published reports show that homecare saves the government 95% of the cost for Hospital care. We need to care for more people at home.
  3. We can maximize the use of technology to treat patients closer to home.
    Finally, as a follow on to the homecare discussion, technology now enables homecare and virtual visits at a fraction of the cost of traditional appointment. As an example, over 70% of common non-emergency medical concerns can be diagnosed and treated remotely. Telemedicine is the next great frontier, and we need our governments to fully endorse and fund it.

 


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