The coronavirus pandemic has shocked healthcare systems around the world. The immediate task of finding appropriate short- and long-term solutions forCOVID-19 has put the pharmaceutical and drug delivery industry in the spotlight as companies race to develop, test, approve and manufacture both treatments and vaccines. However, to paraphrase Churchill, a crisis should not be wasted.
The pandemic presents an opportunity for drug developers, medical device manufacturers and regulators alike to reconsider how we treat patients and where care can be improved. One silver lining that has emerged from the current situation has been the growing awareness of home care and its benefits. The seeds of this shift had been planted long ago with an increase in technology-enabled mobile health solutions. Last year even saw major tech companies like Apple begin to publicly explore the role they can play in patient-centric healthcare outside the hospital setting.
However, COVID-19 may prove to be a watershed moment for home care. It has forced hospitals and healthcare services to adopt new practices in favour of keeping patients at home – either because of the resource strain incurred from the pandemic or because immunocompromised patients risk too much by going to hospital. In doing so, it is helping patients grow accustomed to – and even prefer – remote health solutions and gives medical professionals access to the technology required to treat patients from afar.
Figure 1: Hospitals are ideal for gathering and analysing real-time patient data for clinical decision support.
The crisis has also given us a much better sense of where home care falls short. A doctor can listen to a parent describing a baby’s symptoms but, without advanced connected devices, cannot check their ear to look for an infection from afar. They can give a patient a prescribed medicine but cannot track dosing and ensure adherence as they can in hospital. More complicated treatments such as chemotherapy are also problematic away from the watchful eyes of clinicians due to sensitivities in dosing and administration – and the harsh side effects of many of these treatments.
Innovation addressing these and other gaps could help us reap the benefits that home care provides to patients while also reducing the burden on hospitals. The key to that innovation is connectivity that both produces and communicates data to healthcare professionals, allowing us to understand home care more thoroughly and with greater transparency than our current capabilities allow.