Speakers at a University of Houston conference last week tackled the problem of ensuring patients’ safety and wellbeing as an increasing number and variety of medical products move from clinical settings into patients’ homes. As pressure mounts to control rising health-care costs my minimizing the time patients spend in hospitals, a record number of people are taking technology with them to continue treatment at home. The conference, Home Health Care Technology: Promoting the Safe Migration of Medical Devices into the Home focused on ways to make the rise in home care safe and optimally therapeutic, especially in cases where technologies were originally designed for clinical use.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the University of Houston cosponsored the event. Physicians, nurses, therapists, attorneys, biomedical engineers, home health care representatives and medical-equipment manufacturers attended the conference.
“As the U.S. population ages, home health care will grow by leaps and bounds,” said Isaac D. Montoya, clinical professor in the University of Houston’s College of Pharmacy and the conference moderator. “The technology, entertainment, communication and finance sectors are combining their efforts to create products that allow elders to continue living in their homes. However, the FDA, industry and home-care interest groups may need to better collaborate to assure the safety of products for home use.”
Conferees tried to identify the vulnerable populations most affected by the trend toward home care. They include the young and the elderly, as well patients with complex birth defects, chronic diseases and terminal illnesses. Others are patients who have communication problems or cultural blocks to understanding device technology, as well as the chronically ill from rural areas, low-income families or foster care.
Among the other issues conferees dealt with were respiratory therapy, one of the fastest-growing technologies for the home environment, risk management in the home creating a device-labeling repository that would provide easy online access to device instructions; and the evolution of over-the-counter devices such as cholesterol meters and continuous glucose monitors that were once “for professional use only” and now approved for home consumer use.
Also on the agenda were accreditation, reimbursement, nursing practices, infusion therapy and the role of government in home health care.