With the COVID-19 pandemic driving adoption of social distancing and various transmission precautions, the potential movement of healthcare services into the home environment has garnered increased attention. Several segments of the healthcare market have historically operated within patient homes, such as hospice care, in-home personal care and home healthcare, among others. However, the potential for other services to expand their presence within the home setting has been developing for some time, particularly with respect to patient monitoring, infusion services and telehealth options.
Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has re-evaluated its requirements for various in-home services, including infusion and monitoring services, to increase access to these resources during the pandemic for Medicare recipients. Patient monitoring technology manufacturers, such as Medtronic, have introduced systems specifically tailored to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, some healthcare advocates are calling for federal services and private sectors to continue the expansion of in-home care opportunities beyond the eventual resolution of the pandemic.
In most cases, the COVID-19 pandemic is simply accelerating in-home trends that were already present in the US healthcare market. This acceleration generates its own set of unique problems and associated market disruptions that impact the healthcare market from service providers to consumable and technology manufacturers.
It is extremely likely that the accelerated trends generated during current events will continue in the future, and it is imperative that those participating in relevant and adjacent markets prepare for competitive shifts and pressures moving forward. Changes in insurance coverage, development of new technologies and the entry of new players into the in-home care field involve significant capital investments, and greater access to these services will spike awareness of in-home options among US consumers.
The shift toward in-home medical services will modify the utilization and packaging formats of consumables and the goals for medical device and technology development, as well as cause long-term shifts in the competitive landscape for manufacturers and distributors of relevant products and services.
Use and Packaging of Medical Consumables
While some services can be easily translated to a home environment, the day-to-day atmosphere of those giving and receiving care is significantly transmuted during the process. Of note, medical consumable products are particularly impacted, as healthcare professionals will have unique needs and wants for consumable product use within homes.
First and foremost, the actual consumption rate of materials may be affected in the home environment, with the potential for both increased and decreased utilization rates of some supplies, particularly disinfectants and personal protective equipment (PPE). Additional products, such as medications and wound care supplies, may also experience variation in the manner and rate of consumption in a home environment compared to a traditional medical facility.
In addition to changes in utilization rates for existing medical consumables (such as wipes, bandages, gloves, masks, etc), new packaging or product development characteristics may be necessary to conform to the in-home environment. For medical professionals traveling from site to site, it may be necessary to reconsider common packaging of consumable products to better accommodate professionals making frequent trips between homes each shift. If staff are expected to visit multiple homes within one shift, they likely will not travel to centralized locations between appointments and will require convenient and reliable product designs and packaging to accommodate travel.
Device and Technology Development
Medical technologies, such as documentation (visit and health record recording) and monitoring systems, require unique characteristics when implemented in a home environment. In the case of monitoring systems, utilized devices must be able to effectively communicate changes in patient status to medical personnel and to do so with little chance for hardware, software or user error. For medical services to successfully shift to a home environment, there must be certainty that patient monitoring and vital documentation processes are able to mimic those seen in medical facilities (including hospitals, physician offices, infusion centers, etc).
While some medical technology segments, such as remote monitoring equipment, are inherently designed for use in home locations, other technologies (including treatment documentation, medical records, etc) require adaptive measures to be suitable in in-home situations. Adaptive measures may involve increased use of mobile documentation devices, software platforms better suited to in-home care scenarios, and devices best suited for mobile implementation (such as unique infusion platforms for in-home intravenous drug administration).
While some healthcare segments are already well established in the homecare setting (such as hospice, home healthcare and some initial movement toward telehealth for primary care), others will need to quickly adapt to the movement toward more frequent in-home patient care services.
This adaptation will likely involve the entry of some new players in the in-home healthcare space, which may choose to offer innovative technologies, consumables or other medical products and services. With respect to services, firms currently offering infusion care may be inclined to expand into home infusion services where medically able, with unique requirements for labor, consumable and technology changes.
In some cases, the competitive landscape for in-home medical services may serve as an extension of existing clinical networks, with major providers expanding into the in-home setting. However, competitive opportunities may elicit competition from outside or new entrants, with the goal of competing directly with previously established clinical-setting medical service, technology or consumable providers. Regardless, rapid expansion of medical services within the home environment will encourage shifts in strategic planning and competitive targeting.
How Market Research Can Help
With the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly shifting the market for healthcare services and products, trends that were slowly starting have rapidly accelerated. Independent market research can assist in strategic decision-making by providing a clear picture of various behavioral and market shifts occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Targeted primary research activities, including in-depth interviews and surveys, can elicit details regarding how the market has adapted to recent events, and the plan moving forward. The monitoring of key competitors within certain spaces can also provide a strategic advantage so that competitive planning efforts can account for anticipated technological development, product launches and market entry among existing and new players.
In addition to competitive insights, independent market research can assist with market sizing and forecasting so that potential opportunities can be clearly highlighted and measured. With dedicated economic data and indicators, experienced analysts, and the ability to conduct surveys and in-depth interviews, market research studies can quickly evaluate the dynamics of rapid market shifts in response to COVID-19 developments.
Where to Learn More
The analysts at Freedonia Custom Research are highly skilled in analyzing global industrial and business-to-business markets. For more than 15 years, we have been helping clients make the right decisions through hundreds of complex projects completed for many of the largest industrial companies in the world. Freedonia Custom Research has conducted a variety of research projects across a number of healthcare industries, including medical technology, financing and disposables. Contact us to discuss your specific research needs and to explore how we can help you achieve your strategic goals.
About the author: William Cochran is a Senior Analyst with Freedonia Custom Research, conducting primary and secondary research as well as market analysis for a wide range of industries. His experience includes healthcare markets (including technologies, consumables and provision of care) as well as broad experience in industrial markets such as chemicals and construction. William holds an MA in Health Economics from Indiana University.