Posted on Jan 26, 2017
Healthcare has changed perhaps more than any other industry other than computer and communication technology. The introduction of computers, the internet and the fruits of billions and billions invested in medical technology have completely transformed an entire industry, and the homecare sector has seen the benefits of these changes as much as any other. Narrowing this list down to 10 things was harder than we expected, so don’t be surprised to see another list in the future!
Nothing has changed healthcare more than the introduction of computer technology. Over the last 40 years, they have completely changed the way that patient information is stored, treatment information is accessed and they have completely changed treatment itself. With the ability to process complex information and to store seemingly unlimited amounts of it, computers have almost completely done away with paper files and have allowed patient information to be shared across authorized providers in a manner like never before.
2) Increasing Regulation
Back when Cape Medical Supply was started, all you needed to enter the home care field was a medical supplies catalog and a vehicle. Oh, how things have changed! Over the course of 40 years, government and industry regulation has increased exponentially to the point that it is now a major factor in influencing how we prescribe care to our patients. Regulations around reimbursements, patient privacy and everything in between have been created and while many have been for better, some have made it unnecessarily difficult to participate in this industry.
3) Improved Equipment
Have you ever seen an older CPAP mask? It’s a scary, Darth Vader looking piece of equipment! While of course we want everyone who needs a CPAP machine to use one, we couldn’t blame anyone who would have run scared from those monstrosities! Today’s CPAP equipment is sleek, low profile and comes in a variety of shapes, size and mask types to comfortably fit any face and sleep style. Turns out when you make the machine way less scary, people are less scared of using it!
4) Data Collection & Analysis
Back in the day, we, along with many other businesses, operated pretty blindly when it came to knowing a lot about our patients and their habits. Frankly, it was next to impossible to track since the technology simply didn’t exist. We made a lot of educated guesses as to how patients needed to learn how to use their equipment, and had less educated guesses as to how often they used it. These days, everything we do is guided by data and it has completely transformed how we interact with, teach and ensure that our patients are complying with their care.
Back in the day, homecare was a small-town type of business. You worked your territory, your competitors worked theirs, and there wasn’t much overlap or competition for practices. Today, competition is fierce, with national companies competing with regional providers who compete with local providers and so on and so forth. Additionally, changing industry regulations have allowed big box stores and mail order / online companies to come in and compete on some of the less-sophisticated items as well, a whole new wrinkle that was unimaginable 20-30 years ago.
6) Declining Medicare Reimbursements
As the federal government continues to seek out new ways to save money, Medicare reimbursements continue to change and decline to well below the actual cost of delivering care. This has had a highly negative effect on the industry, with many long-time and small providers simply unable to afford to continue serving Medicare patients and exiting the field altogether. Patients in rural areas are also facing access issues as providers are forced to pull out of certain geographic markets altogether. It remains to be seen how long the government can continue to cut reimbursements before they end up harming patients more than they already are.
7) Wireless Internet
Thanks to wireless data transfer, we are able to monitor patients' sleep habits in their own homes, allowing us to find the patients that are having trouble adjusting to their care and to be able to effectively reach out to help them. This has had a major effect on how we teach patients to use their CPAP equipment and how we continue to care for them once they have left our offices.
8) GPS Technology
Home delivery is still an important part of our business, and making sure that patients get their supplies on time is a complicated balancing act! In the 1970s and 80s, it was hard to track how deliveries were going, and much of route-planning and delivery estimates were simply a guessing game. Thanks to GPS technology, we can now precisely plan out the routes our drivers will take across 4 different states, and have the ability to know whether they are stopped, turning or in transit to their next delivery point. It has greatly helped us to deliver more care and more supplies on time!
9) Lean Thinking
When Mark & Nancy Sheehan started Cape Medical Supply in 1977, Lean thinking barely existed as an industrial philosophy, much less one that was applicable to the (then) simple homecare business. Today, it drives everything we do and has resulted in major transformations of our company, from how we stock our warehouse to triage phone calls to even the design of our website!
10) Smarter, More Engaged Patients
Nothing makes us happier than when a patient asks one of our respiratory technician’s questions - it means they care and they’re interested in their therapy! Today’s patients are more engaged, more educated and more invested in their care than ever before. With access to reams and reams of good (and bad) advice on the internet, patients come to us prepared and pepper our people with questions about how best to use their care, something we could only have dreamed of 40 years ago. This has helped to contribute to their greatly increased compliance rates - something that’s good for everyone in the end!