In 2021, we saw a broad market acceptance of innovative care delivery approaches that brought healthcare into the home. This shift, largely driven by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, showed all of us as consumers how we could access care at home – in a manner similar to the way we work or shop at home.
The surge in telehealth use and the implementation of Hospital at Home programs proved successful in improving outcomes, increasing hospital capacity, keeping patients safe and cutting costs.
Amid this shift to home-based care, payers and providers increasingly partnered with solutions to extend care beyond traditional settings. SCAN Group, which includes SCAN Health Plan, made a strategic investment in MedArrive (Disclosure: MedArrive is a 7wireVenture’s portfolio company.), Humana made a $100M investment in Heal, and Kaiser Permanente and the Mayo Clinic invested $100 million into Medically Home.
Traditional consumer technology players, such as Amazon and Best Buy have entered the space as well – a testament to the opportunities that exist to bring healthcare into the home.
While the industry’s current approach to home-based care has been critical to increasing access throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many solutions today merely look to replicate the hospital visit in the home. Such solutions fail to consider the immense possibilities created by moving care outside of the four walls of a hospital as well as the opportunities to help solve key issues plaguing our healthcare system today – rising costs, an aging population, the caregiver burden and provider shortages, to name a few.
Such challenges will only heighten the current strain on our healthcare system. With healthcare costs on the rise and visits to the ED representing $32B in unnecessary medical spend annually, health plans and risk-bearing providers are interested in strategies to reduce unnecessary ED utilization and spend by shifting members to lower-cost sites of care, with particular focus on at-home services.
In addition, by 2030, one out of every five U.S. citizens will be of retirement age, and 87% of older adults want to age in place with caregiver support. Home-based care will be paramount to scaling healthcare’s resources and caregiver’s capabilities in the coming years as the industry manages the influx of consumers requiring more high-touch, attentive care in 2022 and beyond.
Finally, with reports estimating that 124K more physicians will be needed by 2034, and a projected shortage of Registered Nurses expected to intensify as Baby Boomers age, virtual solutions that bring healthcare into the home can help scale provider resources and power new staffing models, such as coaching models, peer counselors or trained community members.
To meet the growing demand for care in the home, providers, payers and investors will look for innovative solutions that marry technology and human touch to scale our clinical workforce, solutions that focus, not just on sick care or chronic care management, but also more holistically on preventative health and solutions that arm consumers with actionable information to improve health.
Marry technology and human touch
While there is an immense opportunity for digital solutions to expand provider accessibility and capacity for care by shifting care into the home, digital solutions alone are not the answer. The industry must look to new care models that combine both technology and human touch in a scalable way.
This includes immediate access to human-based support when and where consumers want it, seamless access to specialists, virtually or in the home, as well as capabilities to loop in caregivers. Such an approach also creates opportunities for imaging, lab tests and more to be done at home.
Focus not just on sick care or chronic care management, but also on preventative health more holistically
Imagine if your bed could track how you sleep, or your refrigerator could recommend healthy meals based on what you picked up at the grocery store. With so much of our health determined outside of traditional healthcare settings, true home-based care should not be defined by the reactive care we frequently receive.
Instead, preventative care should be a component of the home experience in a manner that empowers consumers to engage proactively. This includes solutions that build trust by leveraging data to engage with consumers based on their personal preferences and are nonintrusive – there when consumers need them, not when they don’t.
Arm consumers with actionable information to improve health
Consumers are inundated with information throughout the day – emails, texts, news and data from a wearable device. While the shift to home-based care creates opportunities for consumers to have real-time access to important healthcare data and insight into how their daily decisions are impacting their heath, consumers don’t need more information just for information’s sake.
Instead, home-based care solutions must be action oriented – seamlessly providing consumers, or caregivers, with specific steps to take to improve health. Information should empower consumers to self-manage their care and be tied to health outcomes big enough for both the patient and the broader healthcare system to take note. This includes not only cost savings or reductions in readmissions, but also a higher quality of life for the consumer.
While COVID-19 has created renewed opportunities for home care, the true value will come from innovative solutions that go beyond replicating the traditional hospital visit and instead consider the immense possibilities created by moving care outside of the four walls of the traditional hospital setting.
Solutions should tap into the emerging power of technology and data and empower all of us as consumers with the knowledge and resources to be better stewards of our own health.
Robert Garber is a partner at 7wireVentures, where he focuses on investments in companies that empower consumers to become better stewards of their heath.
He has over 30 years of experience investing in, advising, and operating early-stage healthcare and technology companies, and has co-managed four venture funds with $400M+ AUM. Before joining 7wireVentures, Robert served as managing director of Stratus Ventures and KB Partners, where he led investments in early-stage healthcare and technology companies.
Previously, Robert held key executive roles for three high-growth companies, where he led operations, business development and finance in the ecommerce and software industries.
Robert received a Master of Business Administration degree from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania.