How Can Hospitals Turn the Home Into a Healthcare Hub?

By Eric Wicklund

As more healthcare services are accessed in or delivered to the home, health systems and hospitals will have to make significant changes to take full advantage of that setting.

A panel discussion at last week’s CES 2024 event in Las Vegas brought to light the challenges facing healthcare organizations who want to use the home for care delivery. For while the technology is in place to deliver care, healthcare executives have to rethink how they collect and use data from the home and interact with consumers.

“It’s not chronic disease [management], it’s not consumer, it’s not patient. It’s life care,” said Leslie Saxon, MD, executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing and a professor of medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine.. “Traditional medical care [providers] have to believe that the patient is the consumer. … And the people who are going to drive this market are the patients.”

“We have an untapped resource in the home,” added Hon Pak, a vice president and head of the digital health team at Samsung Electronics. “Fundamentally, we have to change the model” of how care is delivered.

Jared Conley, MD, PhD, MPH, associate director of the Healthcare Transformation Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital and part of Mass General Brigham’s Hospital at Home program, said the Hospital at Home strategy, which encompasses more than just the CMS-approved model, has been proven to improve clinical outcomes, reduce rehospitalizations and adverse events, and cut healthcare costs. He said he anticipates this will become a standard for clinical care at home in the future.

On the other hand, collecting data from the home and working with consumers to improve their health and wellness is as-yet uncharted territory.

“Ultimately … the goal is prevention,” Conley said. But healthcare organizations don’t have the science, technology, or behavioral health background to gather and use the data yet.

Pak said the Hospital at Home movement “isn’t transformational.”

“We have to have a better understanding of where people are at their life stage,” he said.

Pak, noting that many “amazing innovations [turn into] siloed point solutions that never get integrated,” said healthcare organizations have to learn how to use the home and all that it offers for healthcare transformation. Some 60% of care costs are tied to a patient’s lifestyle, he added, and yet only about 3% of the money spent on healthcare is tied to behavior change.

Ed Miller, chief technology officer for the Center of Medical Interoperability at the Connectivity Standards Alliance, said the industry needs to develop standards so that home-based devices and smart technology can share data with healthcare organizations. The technology itself isn’t an issue, he added, but creating pathways for hospitals and health systems to gather and use that data is.

Saxon called it a “profound cultural drive.” Health systems and hospitals are very good at delivering healthcare, she pointed out. But they aren’t skilled at working with consumers to manage health and wellness.

Enter the disruptors, who know how to reach consumers in their homes.

“Given our reliance on digital health, we cannot do this alone,” Conley pointed out. “There’s a huge opportunity to collaborate.”

Healthcare has “a horrible customer experience,” added Saxon. “Who’s good at that? Amazon and Apple are good at what they do. Consumers are going to expect that.”

Healthcare organizations “aren’t going to be the jailbreakers,” she said. “It’s just too much to ask of a busy health system.”

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, Telehealth, Supply Chain and Pharma for HealthLeaders.