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Monday, 22 May 2023

In the healthcare industry, the conventional notion has long held that healing must take place within the confines of a hospital. However, as the demands for accessible and cost-effective healthcare continue to rise, healthcare practitioners and funders are being compelled to explore alternative approaches that can reduce the burden on traditional brick-and-mortar hospitals.

Amidst this evolving landscape, AfroCentric's Hospital-at-Home program has emerged as a trailblazer, setting new standards for patient-centered care, and transforming the way healing is perceived and delivered. With an impressive track record of serving over 1000 patients and counting, AfroCentric's ground-breaking programme challenges the status quo, demonstrating that exceptional care can be provided beyond the confines of a hospital setting.

Throughout the years, South Africa's healthcare sector has grappled with the pressing issue of affordable healthcare solutions. Discussions surrounding the necessity for entry-level medical aid options and cost-effective medical procedures have been at the forefront of these conversations. Yet, despite the growing recognition of the problem, tangible results have remained elusive.

However, a breakthrough solution has emerged, one that combines innovation with a visionary approach - the concept of hospital-at-home. In the midst of this healthcare conundrum, the introduction of the hospital-at-home model has brought newfound hope to the industry. This innovative approach challenges the traditional belief that healing can only occur within a hospital's confines. This model presents a transformative and cost-effective alternative by shifting the locus of care from the hospital environment to patients' homes.

Quro Medical is redefining the healthcare sector as this is South Africa's first Hospital-at-Home service provider. Patients are provided with a full and holistic complement of Hospital-at-Home services primarily for acute illnesses. With the support of Medscheme, AfroCentric's largest subsidiary , this approach brings a ground-breaking solution to relieving an overburdened healthcare system. Hospital-at-Home transforms the way patients receive treatment and care, and reduces significantly.

As an emerging acute care delivery model, Hospital-at-Home allows patients to receive hospital-level care in the comfort of their own homes. By using technology, remote monitoring, and mobile healthcare teams, clinicians can provide the same level of care as in a hospital setting. This approach reduces the risk of hospital-acquired infections, improves patient comfort, reduces the burden on hospitals, and reduces healthcare costs – making it a more sustainable care model than the traditional hospicentric model.

Dr Abongile Qamata, Alternatives to Hospitalisation Advanced Specialist at AfroCentric, explains that adoption of this model has been slow in other parts of the world due regulatory delays and patchwork reimbursement. Interestingly, adoption in South Africa is on the rise especially among Medscheme scheme members.

"AfroCentric Group has officially reached a significant milestone with its 1000th Hospital-at-Home authorisation. While other local adopters of this revolutionary service are yet to witness an uptake of the service, the Group has been at the forefront of delivering this global alternative healthcare trend to the South African market, which data tells us we may be leap-frogging ahead of other global health markets in this sphere.   

Additionally, Dr Qamata says reaching over 1 000 Hospital-at-Home cases is a testament to the growing need for home-based healthcare services and affordability in  healthcare. The latest General Household Survey found that only 17 in 100 South Africans have medical insurance, which is crucial for accessing private healthcare. This implies that a significant majority, approximately 82 out of every 100 South Africans (equivalent to 45 million people), do not have medical aid coverage and therefore rely heavily on public healthcare services. Outside of Hospital-at-Home being a more sustainable care model than the traditional hospicentric models, it thrives on the principle that the only thing guaranteed is your bed. When patients leave the hospital, they go home to recover which is enabled by a patient having a guaranteed bed at their disposal.

While some may have concerns around the impact of Hospital-at-Home on traditional brick-and-mortar hospitals, it important to recognise that these healthcare delivery models can work in harmony. Hospital-at-Home can provide additional options for patients without undermining the existing healthcare infrastructure. This ensures that patients under medical schemes such as GEMS, Bonitas and Polmed, or even private care patients referred to public hospital specialists have the option to leverage Healthcare as a Service (HaaS) through this model.

"As technology evolves and healthcare costs continue to rise, Hospital-at-Home has become a viable and effective alternative to traditional forms of medical care. Not only is it more comforting to receive treatment at home, but quality is never compromised. A doctor for instance, is forced to be confronted with the patient's everyday environment and therefore instead of solely treating the condition, they are able to make further recommendations based on diet, or exercise that can further support the patient's recovery.

Leveraging innovative, clinically proven technology, Hospital-at-Home goes beyond telemedicine and traditional home care. It intelligently incorporates clinical data as well as the remote healthcare monitoring value proposition — closing the active data and patient monitoring fault lines often found in more traditional telemedicine approaches.
She says it is vital to note that there are government-adjacent schemes within the group who have access to Hospital-at-Home. This is also a model that government can adapt to reduce the healthcare burden on public hospitals.

"Patients can recover in peace and comfort without the noise and disruption of a hospital ward. They are also recovering in familiar surroundings with friends and family members, which has been a proven aid to the recovery process. Beyond the emotional benefits, Qamata says Hospital-at-Home provides greater flexibility and control over one's medical care while saving costs for both patients and healthcare providers.

The COVID-19 pandemic undeniably accelerated the growth and adoption of care at home. However, even post pandemic,  Medscheme continues to see a rise in Hospital-at-Home cases. In 2020, Medscheme reported  less than 100 Hospital-at-Home authorisations  and by 2022, the number of cases had tripled

The service administered by Medscheme through Quro Medical has already saved up to 63% of the cost of some treatments when compared to a hospital setting. This success has seen home-based care treatments in the Group's stable experience an average year on year increase of 11.7% since 2020. The service is covered by the same healthcare benefits as a traditional hospital stay, ensuring patients receive the best possible care.

"The growing demand for alternative healthcare services is evident and we couldn't be more excited to be at the forefront of this change. The success of our hospital-at-home service demonstrates its viability and effectiveness as a modern approach to healthcare." Dr Qamata concludes.

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