In November 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services launched the Acute Hospital Care At Home program to provide hospitals expanded flexibility to care for patients in their homes. This is but one of many at-home hospital care programs that have begun to pop up, in an effort to keep high-risk patients safe, mitigate capacity issues at hospitals, and to simply allow people the dignity of care from their own home. And while we’ve spoken about medical devices before, it’s interesting to take this conversation into medical care itself.

While this certainly is a nice option for individuals with chronic conditions who would prefer to stay in their own home rather than make regular trips to the hospital, it’s impossible to not see this as what it is: Yet another vector for field service management. And in-home medical care being another service option means that what was once a simple, centralized function now has tendrils that extend far outside a single network of buildings. Let’s talk about what that means.

Scheduling in the Another Dimension
Under even the rosiest of circumstances, coordinating a staff of personnel across a business is a challenge. Take “Making the rounds” and move it to a statewide scale, and you’ve added another dimension of challenges, logistics, and pain. Do you embed individuals in homes? Do you subdivide labor between at-home and in-office? Do you bring on contingent labor and merge them with salaried staff? 

In service, we know that this can be most effectively managed by a full-featured optimization system. For staffing effectiveness (especially in the face of a labor shortage), this is an imperative. Getting this right will allow hospitals and associated organizations to offer the care that patients need, when they need it, in a way that maximizes value and limits overhead. 

Decentralizing the Service Supply Chain
For medical devices, especially consumables, there’s a variety of interesting opportunities to provide decentralized service. Should consumables be sent directly to the patient? What are the compliance risks of doing so? What about remittance and disposal of hazardous materials? There’s a lot of potential for value add, money saved, and more thoughtful utilization of materials. 

Getting all that figured out will be beholden to understanding parts management and reverse logistics across all channels of care. That means fusing in-office care with field care, in a single view, across use cases. 

Always-on Device Management
I can imagine that home medical care would be particularly appealing to individuals on dialysis, or who receive lengthy treatments of other kinds. Obviously many of those types of treatments require and include complex machinery in order to function correctly. And when that equipment falls out of physical view, tracking becomes all the more important.

We’re quick to articulate the invaluable connection between asset management and service management, and that becomes doubly true when medical property is in a customer’s home. For things to run efficiently, you need to know that there’s an issue with a piece of equipment before the appointment, not at the beginning of an appointment.

Whenever service comes into play, these sorts of considerations naturally arise. And while it’s important for all service organizations to get service right, the stakes are often much higher for medical care. Fortunately, today’s tools for service deliver can rise to meet those challenges, and help initiatives like this succeed. 

Tom Paquin
Author

Contributor, Future of Field Service