Lifebuoy amidst the perilous swell of delayed care?

2 June 2020

In early May, we at Heart for Health, an IT partner for healthcare organisations, asked ourselves: what’s next? How can we help control COVID-19 while we get acute care back up and running? How can we get healthcare professionals and patients to regain confidence in each other, in safe, virus-free conditions and in limiting risks? Is there anything we can with our expertise in IT?

It goes without saying that we will all have to learn to trust the system once more. NZa sounded the alarm as early as mid-March, reporting that an estimated 360,000 fewer people had been referred to hospital already, and this figure has only increased since then. Only after we have managed to stem the tide will the real damage inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic show itself, as a landscape devastated by flooding that re-emerges in a period of drought. Usually, you’ll find it looks worse for wear than before.

Isn’t there something we can do to get a head start on regaining trust and limiting the damage caused by the pandemic and all the care it has delayed?

As it happens, there’s a lot that can be done!

The Dutch Healthcare Authority, for instance, played its part by relaxing regulations on remote care in mid-March 2020, to make it easier to provide essential care. Face-to-face contact, for instance, is no longer mandatory, making it a lot easier for healthcare providers to claim expenses from insurance companies.

ZonMw has also contributed, setting up an incentive fund in a matter of weeks, which has already distributed over EUR 27 million in two tranches for creative ideas and projects to tackle the effects of COVID-19 in the healthcare sector. Examples: addressing delayed care and improving healthcare processes for the future.

Heart for Health has been hard at work, too, focusing on facilitating remote are. Aernout Somsen, [Cardiologist and founder of Cardiologie Centra Nederland]:

“Our remote care systems cannot stem the tide on their own, but they are a lifebuoy of sorts. We’ve known this about remote care for some time now, but it is clearly gaining momentum now.“

Somsen stresses that this newfound momentum should never come at the expensive of quality. “Our recent gains are powered by a rock-solid EHR that works for you, as standardised data exchange is essential for responsible remote care and remote monitoring. We have already gained the necessary experience through our home monitoring program for Cardiologie Centra Nederland (CNN). Some 1,500 patients now use our ‘HartWacht’ (Heart Watch) to efficiently share their data with their cardiologists and nurses from home.

New patients of this Independent Treatment Centre are offered this module more or less automatically, “making it a classic example of a measure you can take to prevent delayed care from mushrooming”, Somsen believes.

With remote healthcare and monitoring, a significant part of the care process can take place in patients’ homes, while specialists remain in direct contact with them. On top of that, this new approach provides patients with much more insight into their own health, improving the quality of person-centered care and, therefore, the results and effectiveness of treatments.

Contact and insight within the comfort of one’s own home have proven to be key factors in regaining confidence in healthcare, showing that remote care is an effective lifebuoy in mitigating the damage caused by delayed healthcare.

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