Home healthcare the way forward, doctor says

HOME healthcare, sometimes known as virtual hospitals, is a growing trend in the health sector.

The idea behind home healthcare is to provide patients with medical care in the comfort of their homes.

Sunway Healthcare Group managing director, hospital & healthcare operations, Dr Khoo Chow Huat said: "I believe this is where healthcare is headed towards – bringing the hospital to homes.

"Many hospitals began to realise that telemedicine and home healthcare was possible when the pandemic hit and there was a need to consult with patients in their homes due to the lockdown."

However, Dr Khoo said that telemedicine is just one part of the puzzle, and a more integrated approach towards healthcare delivery is necessary.

For instance, home healthcare could take the form of combining telemedicine consultations with physical visits at home during pre and post-operative programmes to expedite mobility.

Doctors and nurses could also administer antibiotics or certain cancer treatments to patients at home.


According to Dr Khoo, some hospitals in the US and Singapore have begun to allow their patients home earlier, but proceed to monitor them through video calls and remote monitoring devices, including blood pressure devices, glucose tests and oximeters that transmit data through an app.

"This would only be effective if hospital systems are digitised and equipped with the right technology. With my personal experience in the Singaporean healthcare industry, I'm interested to see how hospitals here will be able to implement this," he added.

In countries like Australia, some hospitals even manage sub-acute patients via virtual hospitals — patients are given IV fluids, oxygen, medication, insulin and other forms of treatment in their homes.


According to Insights10, Malaysia's home healthcare market was valued at $583 million (RM2.75 billion) in 2022.

Nevertheless, there are still gaps in the local home healthcare ecosystem.

For instance, Malaysians are familiar with home nursing providers, but these providers often operate independently and are not linked to a particular hospital.

"They provide valuable assistance in rehabilitation, wound dressing, post-operative care and such. While effective, they may be disjointed from the patient's initial treatment and not part of an established care plan," said Dr Khoo.

Another gap is the technological infrastructure in Malaysia, as the adoption and awareness of remote monitoring devices are still relatively low.


Amplifying the home healthcare model could lead to several benefits, including cost savings and expanded bed capacity.

A McKinsey article detailed how the UK's National Health Service (NHS) commitment to increasing the capacity of virtual wards could allow more than 17 per cent of admissions to be treated in virtual hospitals.

"We've heard a lot of news of how patients had to wait for hours, even days, to be given a bed at Malaysian public hospitals. Even private hospitals are beginning to experience such shortages. Countries like the UK and US also face bed shortages," said Dr Khoo, emphasising how home healthcare could help alleviate the growing issue.

Another benefit of home healthcare is improved patient satisfaction.

Patients, in general, prefer to receive care at home. Studies have also shown patients treated at home have a lower rate of readmission, according to The New York Times Magazine.

"We endeavour to shorten patients' length of stay at the hospital by transferring certain components of care that can be administered effectively and safely at home. What would have been a five-day ordeal of being warded at the hospital could now be reduced to two days.

"Instead of visiting the hospital once a week for physiotherapy over several months, a patient can now conduct physiotherapy at home, with teleconsultation with his or her doctor," shared Dr Khoo.

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