As legislation, engagement and positive results continue to push digital patient care solutions forward, many healthcare organizations are not yet prepared for the increased adoption of these technologies. While general interest in telehealth remains somewhat lukewarm, the proof of viability for clinically-driven remote patient monitoring (RPM) is undoubtedly there and will become table stakes as positive results and legislation continue to progress. As a healthcare provider, how can you best ensure that you’re well-equipped to handle expansions in remote care scenarios?
1. Meet with enthusiasm
COVID was a forced pilot at a massive scale that shifted the norms around RPM and other virtual care offerings. Despite the challenges of the last 18 months, one silver lining is that the pandemic has resulted in better, more advanced solutions from technology providers and healthcare innovators.
Within one month, the pandemic drove a surge in telehealth that the industry has been trying to achieve for over ten years. And guess what? Patients loved it. Patients are now more comfortable than ever receiving care at home, and providers are more likely to adopt solutions that make at-home care efficacious and safe. Telehealth appointments save patients over 100 minutes of time compared to an in-person visit, and providers are able to tap into new markets and drive better health outcomes for their patients.
These solutions clearly work: they reduce strain on healthcare providers and drive patient engagement. In fact, RPM technology is advancing and increasing in affordability, and advancements in self-monitoring technology have paved the way for “anywhere, anytime” care, especially among at-risk patients.
Further, clinicians have a responsibility to help foster patient success, even after they leave their office. When done correctly, technology-enabled solutions can serve as a powerful resource to deliver high-quality care and empower patients to take a more active role in their health. Through patient-provider communication tools, patient compliance is better enforced and engagement improves, while biometric monitoring and symptom surveys enable progress to be tracked over time. It is also important to offer patients continuous support and encouragement, and using remote care to deliver a real, true conversation from a human being to a human being is what creates an engaging model.
2. Ensure that you have a versatile value-based care model in place
It is important to note that the concept and use of RPM are not new. Neither is the core problem that RPM seeks to solve, which is that our healthcare system is designed around acute interventions, resulting in little to no chronic condition support and poor adherence to treatment protocols.
As patients move from the acute to post-acute care setting, they are often discharged without the proper tools to successfully support their transition of care. In fact, 57% of Medicare patients are released from the hospital without any post-discharge monitoring. When patients are not supported with digital enablement tools, it is common to see a higher incidence of ED utilization and readmissions tied to poor medication adherence, lack of provider support, and/or poor health literacy.
Value-based care models help providers to manage patient volume and cost reduction. A lesson learned from 2020 is that reliance on fee-for-service can leave providers vulnerable to uncertainty and changes in demand. As utilization, measured by visits to primary care and specialist doctors, dipped during the pandemic, providers who had invested largely in value-based care were better able to weather the storm and the economic downturn by having a consistent source of revenue despite low utilization. With RPM, care can be moved into the home: value-based care here means delivering quality healthcare in the setting that works best for patients that both improve lives and lowers costs.
Health data transparency and improved data collection methods offer consequential opportunities for health systems to ensure quality improvement and reduce costs across the board. Another benefit of RPM? It can play a pivotal role in optimizing value-based care by helping organizations better understand the ins and outs of their operations, providing more transparency into patient outcomes, and identifying ways to lower costs while still achieving a higher quality of care. This type of clinical data often holds the potential to help transform the healthcare system.
3. Continue to lead with patient-first choices
As age-related disabilities and chronic disease rates rise, society needs a solution more than ever. Nearly half of all Americans suffer from at least one chronic condition and are faced with managing heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, or other health conditions every day. An RPM platform can continually provide ongoing support, timely information, and personalized resources that extend care beyond ambulatory settings.
However, while value-based care can yield considerable benefits to organizations throughout the health sector, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to implementing this type of care. The same applies to an RPM program. Each patient has their own set of behaviors, motivators, and barriers that impact how they respond to their care plans. Offerings should be personalized and take into account patients’ history, digital phenotype and other patient contexts such as digital savviness (ie, SMS or smartphone-based engagement).
In that sense, a major reason why RPM has picked up popularity is by helping patients make more informed decisions about their health, which is key to improving outcomes and reducing hospital readmissions. With more concrete information regarding their current health status and trajectory at their disposal, patients utilizing RPM can create powerful data, further understand their health, engage with doctors, and make decisions about their own care. In turn, this decreases hospitalizations, lowers healthcare spending and reduces long-term associated complications.
Looking Towards the Future
COVID-19 impacted our health system and the demands of its most active participants. While we were experiencing an increase of digital technologies to improve care delivery before Covid-19 swept the globe, it’s no longer a question of “if” digital technologies will be implemented, but rather when. Remote care is here to stay and is an essential strategy for both small and large providers alike.
About Nora Zetsche, MD