From wound care and ostomy care to home dialysis and telemonitoring, medical technologies are changing how and where services are provided. By facilitating a shift away from hospital care, we are helping to improve outcomes for patients and add value to the health system.
What is community care?
Community care refers to treatment and care outside of an acute care setting, such as a hospital. It typically includes primary care (provided by general practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals), out-patient clinics, homecare, nursing homes, hospices, convalescent centres, ambulatory care (such as intravenous chemotherapy), and providers of medical technologies such as pharmacies, medical device shops, appliance contractors, and homecare companies.
For patients, including the elderly and disabled, accessing services locally is more convenient than travelling to hospitals for outpatient appointments or being admitted to hospital. Telemedicine allows people to preserve their independence while digital technologies monitor their health and securely share health data with their healthcare team.
Community care in Europe
Community care can benefit patients, their families, doctors, and hospitals. Check out country profiles (Germany, France, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom) and best practices (Belgium, France, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom) to better understand the system in some European countries.
MedTech Europe ‘s Community Care group calls for a recognition of the benefits of community care and more attention to the community setting resulting in a broader use of healthcare outside hospitals, when appropriate for patients. This can be achieved through financing and reimbursement systems that support a better implementation of community care and requires a strong political support to address key policy challenges preventing the full potential of community care.
Europe’s ageing population means that more people will require healthcare. The COVID-19 pandemic clearly demonstrated the benefits of community care and homecare, which were crucial to ensure the continuity and quality of treatments of patients with chronic conditions at home during the pandemic. Some measures implemented by European countries towards ensuring appropriate community care during the pandemic can serve as best practices and be replicated throughout Europe. Now, more than ever, it is essential to find ways to make the most efficient use of healthcare resources.
Technology can help. Hospitalisation is unavoidable for people with acute illnesses or in need of major surgery. Many chronic conditions, however, can be managed just as well or in some cases better in the community.
Community care delivers efficiency to healthcare systems by allowing patients to receive care outside a hospital or inpatient setting. Research shows that frequently older people are admitted to hospital unnecessarily and stay longer than necessary. Inpatient care can be several times more costly than homecare, which is preferable whenever clinically appropriate.
The medical technology industry continues to develop products, services and solutions that enable people to better manage their disease or health condition themselves and minimise their use of hospital care. Raising healthcare professionals’ awareness and trust in community care will support a more efficient care delivery and unlock the potential of home care. This can also be empowering for patients, providing them with flexibility and with more convenient ways to receive care.
The medical technology sector is committed to playing its part in the collective effort required to restructure our health services towards a greater role, awareness and support of community care in health systems. By facilitating community care, the industry provides smarter alternatives to the traditional model of locking up resources in hospitals.
They have the potential to change patient care, yet health systems tend to evolve slowly. Realising their full benefits will mean investing in the infrastructure that will deliver effective community care, including public awareness. This will provide a further step towards sustainable, cost-effective healthcare systems.
To fully unlock the potential of community care, health systems need to break down silo budgeting structures for the treatment of people with chronic conditions, helping to ensure patients receive consistent, high-quality care across all care settings. In particular, payers need to move towards paying for an ‘episode of care’ rather than paying based on the site of care.
Community care is a diverse sector
To find out more about wound care, home dialysis and ostomy, click on the links below.
Wound Care has advanced significantly thanks to medical technologies. Good wound management can help to accelerate healing, reduce the impact on patients and break the cycle of repeat hospitalisation. It can often be provided in a community setting, including in patients’ own homes.
Renal Therapies offers carefully selected patients the freedom to pursue work, study and family life, while undergoing life-preserving treatment for chronic kidney disease.
Ostomy products can be personalised to fit individual patients and their body types. They help to reduce the risk of complications and reduce the need for hospital care by allowing services to be provided elsewhere, like at home. It provides a better quality-of-life and allows patients to live their lives normally and in dignity.
Specialized continence nurses and systems designed around patient profiles are key factors for implementing optimal continence care and reducing unnecessary costs to the system. Supporting education and training programs for specialized continence nurses in community care throughout Europe will support improved detection, initial assessments and treatment of patients. Greater understanding of patient profiles and funding systems designed around them would result in clearer patient pathways, more transparency and efficiency.