In-home medical care has become a frequent occurrence. Infirmary closures have become the norm. Budding healthcare technology, increasing deductibles, and comfortability of in-home healthcare all take part in the reason for this. The ability to receive the same excellent care you would in the hospital, in the luxury of your own home, is something to rejoice over. Especially for patients who have trouble traveling or can’t travel at all.
Hospitals, on the other hand, aren’t experiencing that same joyful spirit. Rural hospitals all over the country are closing their doors because of the lack of patients to fill their beds. Employees are being laid off at a rapid pace because healthcare facilities can’t afford to pay them when they aren’t receiving patients in return. According to Paul Demko at Modern Healthcare, 51 rural hospitals across the country have closed their doors since 2010. So, let’s dig a little deeper into the reasons behind this and find out what is in store for the future of rural hospitals in this country.
Technology has taken over the world. Walking down the sidewalk in a busy city is like playing Frogger. You have to dodge the preoccupied who have their head buried in their phone in order to keep from becoming road kill. Because of the saturation of technology in every other market in the world today, there is no reason to think it would be any different in the healthcare industry.
As I wrote in last week’s blog, the healthcare industry is continually changing thanks to the new technologies being introduced at what seems like light speed. We now have watches and fitness trackers that allow us to keep track of our activity levels, heart rate, glucose levels, and medicine intake. There are even patient monitoring systems that observe patients and then share that data at real time with their doctors and loved ones. When you have that technology available at your fingertips, why would you stay in the hospital? You have everything that you are going to experience at the hospital in the comfort and serenity of your own home. If I was given an option between my bed and a hospital bed, I don’t think I need to tell you which selection I would make. Just one simple reason that rural hospitals are having trouble filling their beds.
People don’t enjoy paying out-of-pocket costs when they are used to insurance covering the bills. Rising deductibles are a big reason that hospital stays are now shorter and less frequent. People don’t want to be strapped down by the debt that they are receiving because of their rising deductibles. The Kaiser Family Foundation conducts a survey of employee health benefits every year and found that in 2016, deductibles had risen 12 percent. Why would a person want to prolong their stay in the hospital when they can receive home care and not have to worry about paying that pricy deductible? Dr. Steven Landers, president and CEO of VNA Health Group, notes that a patient who has received surgery can be transferred to home care and expect to receive a $1200 bill at the end of the month. A person who stays in the hospital to receive care from nurses should expect a bill around $12,000. When you see it spelled out like that, there is no mystery why people are choosing the financially correct option.
As I touched on earlier, the majority of patients, if given the choice, would choose to receive care in their own home. People enjoy recovering in their own home because, well, they feel at home when they are home. I would venture to guess that receiving in home care, while the quality of care might not be as good, actually speeds up the healing process. The comfortability of your own home can treat wounds that the nurses won’t be able to. That might sound cliché, probably because it is, but when you are relaxed and content, there is no stress, and stress is one of the main hindrances to a speedy recovery. Take the stress away and the patient will be restored in a quick manner.
There you have it. No complicated reasoning behind the fact that rural hospitals are downsizing and closing at an alarming rate. We should have seen this coming. Technology has started giving us the avenue for home care. Once home care became a common practice, people realized that compared to staying in a hospital, it was a luxury. And of course, with health costs continuing to rise, people are going to resort to the financially beneficial option. It was happening right before our eyes all along.