Feasibility Study: Application of Doctor-at-Home Model

The Health Care Sector Innovations

Abstract

The health care sector is an industry that is experiencing many changes currently. From new technologies to new legal requirements, the sector has been impacted in every aspect including the way health care services are provided. Coupled with increasing demand, the creativity of health care providers means that they are strategically placed to play a crucial role in health care. The provision of such services must, however, be based on quantifiable factors determined through a feasibility study. By having the study, they are able to know which model works best for them with a given amount of resources and for a particular group of target population.

The purpose of current paper is to provide a feasibility study for the implementation of a proposed project called doctor-at-home model. The study looks at the strategic effect that it will have on health care, sources of finance, market analysis and operation performance. It also explores the future outlook of the health care sector and evaluates the contributions of the model to the health care system in the country.

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Introduction

In a world characterized by an increasing cost of health care, doctor-at-home model can help in providing medical services at affordable costs. Nonetheless, the implementation of such model requires the understanding of different dynamics involving the provision of health care services in homes by doctors. It can be revealed through a feasibility study that helps identify such dynamics. The feasibility study is a tool that can help identify the viability of providing medical services in homes, to study whether the benefits are worth the effort and determine the return on investment (Folland, 2011). Moreover, feasibility study for a doctor-at-home model of treating patients can help identify issues of the required human resources, community needs, applicable federal and state regulations and technological advances among other things that can impact the success of the model. It is also important that the investment in doctor-at-home is based on the factual estimates on the target population and the need for such health care services as provided in the model. The purpose of current paper is present a feasibility study on the provision of doctor-at-home health care services within a selected target group.

Strategic Effect

Provision of health care to people is one of the public services that consume a sizable share of government expenditures. In the recent past, the government has legislated laws to govern and manage the provision of health care services in the country. The Affordable Health Care Act spearheaded by the government requires health care service providers to deliver services that are in line with the cost that patients pay. As a result, there has been a demand for innovative health care services that will cater for the needs of patients in the community they live. Furthermore, many people are entering old age, which means that they will need more enhanced health care services that cater for their needs.

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In order to meet the needs in the market, it is, therefore, important that health care providers employ innovative approach to use of human resources, financial resources and technology in order to fulfill such needs. Moreover, a strategic analysis of the applicable regulations and policies in the provision of public health services will be needed to establish a model that is both robust and effective in meeting the requirements of patients. There are several models already in the market including the call-a-doctor that relies on technology to provide the services to patients. Such models allow for better coordination of health care services and better communication among service providers and patients. They also ensure that patients enjoy the convenience of getting services at their doorstep without needing to travel to see the doctor (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 2012).

The target population for the doctor-at-home model is a priority, since it seeks to provide services in the homes of patients. For this reason, the model will target old people who cannot drive or travel for a long distance to seek for medical attention. The model will also serve the patients well by helping them fill out the legal requirements for people seeking health care services. It is in line with the fact that patients are required to fill many documents before they can get the medical attention that they urgently need. Furthermore, older people are not well-versed with the new technology, which is an important driver in the provision of health care services in the country today (Folland, 2011).

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Market Analysis

Everyone requires health care services at some point in their lives. The characteristics of people who require medical attention ranges from young to old, men to women. However, as health care have continued to become expensive, it is essential for health care providers to identify specific characteristics of their patients in order to provide the services that will meet their needs in an effective way. For the proposed model, the demographic characteristics of target population include older people beyond the age of 65 years. The existing competitors in the market are targeted at the general population, which puts much pressure on their services (Folland, 2011). It means that they also have to comply with many policies and regulations before they can provide the services to the customer. It leads to their services not being efficient to the needs of the clients.

For the proposed model, the target population will consist of men and women who have age-related illnesses, including diabetes and other chronic diseases. In many cases, the decisions about which kind of health care to provide was only made by the professional health care provider, which defined the paternalistic approach to health care services. However, with the changing characteristics in the health sector coupled with advanced technology, patients are increasingly becoming involved in decision-making about the health care services they get. Geographic variations and practice style have also influenced how patients participate in decision-making (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 2012).

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The role of patients in making decisions is increasingly taken over by insurance companies, payers and health maintenance organizations. However, within the context of the proposed doctor-at-home mode, the patients will be empowered to make decisions in areas such as understanding the factors that influence their health, self-diagnosing and self-treatment for minor ailments. They will also be empowered in selection of appropriate treatment for acute conditions under the supervision of a health care professional, management of conditions and symptoms of chronic diseases. Other areas of empowerment will be how they can adopt a healthy lifestyle to prevent recurrence of certain diseases, among many other decisions (Korenstein, Falk & Elizabeth, 2012).

While the provision of health care services to older people attracts the interest of many innovative organizations, there have been challenges in providing actual benefits to the patient. Most services are expensive and organizations charge their customers with extremely high charges. Moreover, the geographical expansion has meant that so many other patients are not accessed to the services as frequently as they would like. Some models such as call-a-doctor are only reliant on technology. It means that when a patient is not in a position to call, he may not access the services, since the doctor will not know when he is in an emergency situation. Doctor-at-home will develop strategies to regularly visit the patient in their homes to determine the level of progress and provide the needed services before they deteriorate into emergency cases.

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Financial Analysis

Investing into health care services can be challenging, especially at time when the cost of providing the services is increasing. Many health care providers have complained that the requirements and policies regulating the industry are stringent and only leave health care providers in losses. Since the start of implementation of Affordable Health Care Act, many private health institutions have closed motivating it by the increase in the cost of doing business. The proposed model is based on cost-cutting that will increase the revenue from the provision of services to clients in their homes.

The expenses will be minimized by the fact that there shall be no need for building and other structures to provide the services. The medical equipment will be provided at the lowest cost and also doctors will be hired on contractual terms to minimize the cost of paying to them. The model will segment areas served into regions and contracted doctors will be based in such regions to minimize transportation costs (Korenstein, Falk, & Elizabeth, 2012).

Furthermore, the model introduces few procedures in providing health care services to patients. The reason why health care services are expensive in the country is a great number of processes and procedures that health care providers must go through. The represented model, in its turn, allows a reduction of expenses. The government is the largest financier for the project. Close to 18% of government spending is directed at health care and includes grants to private practitioners. Other sources will come from organizations that want to invest in health care by providing funding to entities with innovative solutions to the problem of affordable health care. Clients will also provide some funding to the project by paying for the services they receive. The money collected will be ploughed back into the project by strengthening the systems used to provide the services.

The funding constraints include the subjectivity of the government grants. The funds from governments are usually attached to some requirements which may not serve the interest of the proposed project. The money given cannot be used as the investor wishes. Also, the effects of economic downturn are still affecting private donors in the sense that donations are limited. The cost of equipment and medicines has continued to escalate implying that the available funds may not be adequate enough to meet the existent needs in the market. The timeline for receiving the funds from grants, donors and other sources is always long, which may negatively impact the schedule to provide services. Private funders are also investing in high-yielding and quick-turnover sectors like technology and research where they are able to get the benefits of their investment quickly.

Operations Performance

The proposed project will start in a selected community with 10 patients. They will act as pioneers of the project and will be the first beneficiaries of the services. The project will also identify the most prevalent cases of chronic diseases among the selected population with the view of streamlining the services to reflect the needs in the market. The prevalence of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart diseases, is high among the elderly people. The group will form the target population of the services that will be provided through the model (Swayne & Duncan, 2012). In terms of efficiency, the model participants will assist the elderly persons with particular diseases to make decisions about their health, advice them on what they need to do to have better health care and ensure that they spent less on treatment expenses than at present. The model will also foresee the involvement of community volunteer workers who will provide health care related services, such as identifying the people who require special attention.

The services offered through the project shall meet all the certifications of the relevant regulatory bodies, as well as assemble a team of doctors and medical assistants who shall visit homes of the patients. It will be planned to ensure convenient provision of the services to the customer, as well as prevent unnecessary emergencies and hospital visits for the clients. The will have the opportunity to share their medical concerns with their doctors, while also receiving answers to concerns, health issues and any other questions that may arise. The model also adds value to the provision of health care in the region selected because patients will be treated in their homes to ensure maximum safety and follow-up appointments based on the schedule of the client. Finally, it will relieve patients of paperwork by ensuring that all filings are done by the medical assistants and health care professionals (Berwick & Hackbarth, 2012).

Outpatient

The proposed model uses outpatient approach where patients will be treated in their homes. To this end, it ensures that patients are registered with the entity that is providing the services by paying a certain fee. The assigned staff will move from house to house attending patients. Prior to their coming, patients will be notified through their mobile phones of the visit by the doctor. The outpatient will provide the cost of services to the entity supplying the services. Each patient will be required to pay a monthly contribution of 75% of the amount paid in normal health care institutions. In terms of ambulatory services, the practitioners will have ambulatory services to patients who require extra attention in more advanced health care institutions (Hamilton, Matheson, & Dorsey, 2013).

The aim, however, will be to ensure a closer examination of the patient to provide preventive services, primary care and lower the rate of hospital admission among the target population. The proposed model will have a department that is specifically dedicated to addressing the above issues with a view of improving the experiences that customers will face using the model. The provision of such services will, however, depend on the availability of funding and the willingness of the patients to pay the stated amount (Ginter, 2012).

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Future Outlook

With the increasing number of people entering old age, the need for personalized health care services is likely to increase in the future. Technology advancement will also continue to impact the way health care providers supply their services to clients. Government regulations may also become stringent, owing to the escalating costs of health care. Economic growth will probably contribute to increased level of household income share dedicated to health care, especially among the old people. As economic status of people improves, they may dedicate more of their income to improving their lifestyle. It includes receiving specialized care at a premium cost. Thus, the health sector is going to be one of the lucrative sectors for investors who want to make good results on their investments. The proposed model will support current services in health care that are designed to address the needs of the older generation. It also ensures that they use their financial savings expediently in line with the challenges that exist in the health care system. The feasibility study supplements the efforts that stakeholders in the health sector are implementing to lower the cost of health care in the country (Swayne & Duncan, 2012).

Evaluation of the Study

The proposed model ensures that patients with special needs, who are able to pay for the special services, receive them how and when they need. The model will also involve different stakeholders in the community and around the country to think about creative ways of providing health care services. It will be achieved by facilitating the efforts of investors with a view of meeting the needs in the market. Such process also allows for regulators to develop policies that respond to the actual needs of patients in the community (Ginter, 2012).

In conclusion, a good feasibility study must identify the variables applicable and the target population, as well as all the dynamics that affect the implementation of the project. The presented feasibility indicates that the market is ready for innovative and cost-effective health care services represented by doctor-at-home model that can serve the needs of patients.