Saturday, July 15, 2017

Home Healthcare Services a Viable Solution to Fight Shortage of Beds this Dengue Season

The much-awaited monsoon rains, while bringing immense relief from the oppressive summer heat, also heralds dreaded cases of diseases like dengue, chikungunya, typhoid and malaria. Until May 31 2017, even before the onset of monsoon, a total of 11,402 cases of dengue and 11 deaths due to the virus have been reported throughout the country. Kerala with 4,735 cases, recorded 41.5% of the total dengue cases. In the capital Delhi, while the numbers haven't gone up as much, they are certainly on the rise. The latest data released by the Municipal Corporations of Delhi (MCD) mentions a total of 61 dengue and 131 chikungunya cases in the city and neighboring areas right from January onwards, which is usually considered to be a non-transmission period. On a worrying note, there were 21 cases of dengue and 35 of chikungunya in just one week in June.

As was witnessed in the last few years, the pressure on the resources of hospitals, both private and public, is enormous during this season. The Delhi government has already issued a circular directing hospitals to increase their approved bed strength by 10–20% for a period of six months. Along with existing wards, these extra beds are to be accommodated in corridors and waiting areas as well. News about makeshift beds built using stretchers, sticks and duct tapes isn't uncommon during this period. Such is the toll the outbreak of dengue and chikungunya can take. This is when alternative health delivery services like homecare proves to be most efficient in tackling the emergency.

Dr.Gaurav Thukral, Senior Vice –President and Business Unit Director, HCAH said, “By providing requisite medical services within the patient’s home, homecare provides a viable solution for both hospitals and patients. While the former can widen their reach by freeing beds for new patients during demanding times like the upsurge in dengue cases, the latter does not have to worry about not finding adequate care, as all necessary medical set-up will be made available at their own place of residence. Homecare services cover around 70% of all healthcare requirements of a patient. This includes pathology tests, medical equipment rentals and purchases and medicine delivery. Thus, patients affected with dengue can be effectively treated within the confines of their homes where they can receive personalized care and undergo treatment and recovery in an environment they are most comfortable in”.

Dengue is caused by the bite of an infected female mosquito of the Aedesaegypti species. The mosquito gets infected with the dengue virus when it feeds on an infected person’s blood. Symptoms of denguestart manifesting about four to six days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. A drop in the platelet count is a major characteristic symptom of dengue fever. The other most common symptoms are high body temperature, headache, pain behind the eyes, joints and muscles pain, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, skin rashes and low blood pressure. In some cases, the disease can develop into a more serious form called Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (DHF). Although the vaccination for dengue fever was approved for use in dengue endemic areas in April 2016, it is yet to be adopted for use. A suspected dengue patient should undergo a few essential lab-tests in order to confirm the disease and subsequently administer appropriate course of treatment. These tests include Dengue Serology test, Dengue NS1 Antigen test and a complete blood (platelet) count test. With home based medical services, patientsnow have the option of getting these tests done in their respective homes. Home healthcare providers like HealthCare atHOME (HCAH) offers lab sample collection facility at home for dengue patients as well as for other diseases. This facility has made it convenient for patients who are already suffering from fever or other illnesses to get the blood tests done within their comfort zone.  This is done by the team of highly trained DMLT certified phlebotomists and NABL accredited labs.

He further added, “In addition to the growing line of patients, the risks of hospital-acquired infections can further affect dengue patients while aggravating the already encumbered hospital infrastructure. Even with the very best of precautions, it isn't possible to eliminate the risk of infection. Especially during an emergency like dengue outbreaks, this can be hard to avoid when many patients are suffering from weak immunity. While dengue itself is a non-communicable disease, there are chances of contracting several other infections. Those with existing medical conditions like diabetes and very young and very old patients face highest risks. The repercussions of hospital-acquired infections are many. While causing added illness, they can result in longer recovery time and longer stay in hospitals. This can be strenuous to both the patients and the hospitals. However, with home based medical care, the risks of such infections are removed since treatment is done within the patient’s home. Therefore, homecare isn't just a convenient healthcare service for patients but is also an extension of the services provided by regular hospitals. By vacating beds, widening the reach of doctors and reducing chances of infections, homecare not only proves to be invaluable but also indispensable for the efficient treatment of dengue and chikungunya”.

Home based healthcare operates in a simple but well-regulated manner. Consulting doctors and physicians advise treatments for patients, which the professionally trained homecare health providers implement accordingly. With the help of advanced communication technology, doctors are kept in the loop about the patient’s condition all the time and real-time data can be shared with them. This allows the doctors to intervene at any point of time, giving them complete control over their patients and making the care dynamic.
Preparations and precautions for the outbreak of dengue and chikungunya need to be carried out well in advance. While the government and the hospitals are doing their part in increasing bed numbers and ensuring medical resources are up to date, homecare can be a part of this preparatory measures by being an extension of the hospital services and work as a distributed hospital itself within the precinct of the patient’s home.

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