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It is essential to maintain a level of regular communication and engagement with patients.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption to industries around the world. Practices large and small have had to change the way they operate. As quarantine restrictions are being lifted, many doctors’ offices have started seeing patients again. The more astute ones are taking advantage of increasingly available technologies to meet demand, such as remote patient monitoring (RPM).
RPM allows doctors to keep tabs on patients with chronic conditions such as heart failure, high blood pressure, or diabetes. With FDA-approved tools, patient physiological data can be captured from non-clinical remote locations. Equipment such as weight scales, blood pressure cuffs, or pulse oximeters can easily be used by patients in the comfort of their own home. Data from the devices are then securely transferred to a HIPAA-compliant cloud server where providers can then review the data on their end, via a web portal.
By combining data collected from traditional in-person visits, providers can make changes or updates to care plans accordingly. Thus, RPM can serve as a valuable way to expand a care program beyond scheduled appointments.
It would be easy to think that a remote patient monitoring system would allow a more hands-off approach to patient care; that once a patient is set up, measurements will automatically come flooding in. However, despite advances in technology, a human touch is still required. In order to have a successful remote patient monitoring program, it is essential to maintain a level of regular communication and engagement with patients.
It’s important to keep in mind that remote patient monitoring is not a replacement for office visits. While other telehealth offerings are being used to facilitate totally virtual interactions, CMS guidelines actually require RPM to be assigned to patients during an in-person office visit (this requirement has been waived during the COVID-19 public health emergency but will be reinstated upon its completion).
However, once a program is set up, data generated by remote at-home monitoring equipment can supplement data pertaining to chronic conditions, ultimately improving the potential of patient outcomes.
Studies demonstrate a marked improvement in health outcomes and satisfaction.
RPM programs can also have a significant effect on chronic conditions. Patients experienced a 10.7 mm Hg reduction in systolic BP at six months, a 9.7 mm Hg reduction at 12 months, and a 6.6 mm Hg reduction at 18 months. Over time, such changes can have a notable impact on patient health.
Furthermore, healthcare organizations report a higher level of patient satisfaction with quality of care among patients using remote monitoring programs.
Below are some ways to design and execute a successful RPM program.
Without a doubt, remote patient monitoring can be beneficial to a practice. However, it does require a certain amount of dedicated time. Keep in mind that remote care is an additional workstream. It’s best to have a designated support person, such as a medical assistant, who can serve as a dedicated remote patient monitoring lead.
One of the best ways to establish RPM success is to use the right technology to encourage patient adherence.
Having access to both cellular and Bluetooth technology allows for the best experience for specific patients.
Automated notifications can help remind patients when to take their measurements. With busy schedules, mundane tasks are often overlooked in everyday life.
Platform alerts can notify a doctor’s office when measurements come in, or conversely, when they don’t. This can enable the care team to follow up with patients as needed.
An essential element of a successful RPM program is patient engagement. It’s relatively quick and easy for patients to step on the scale, attach their blood pressure monitor, or attach their pulse oximeter. However, it’s just as easy to forget to do these mundane tasks.
Providers can use multiple communication channels with patients to ensure participation. Tools within an RPM platform can easily be used to email, text, or call patients, depending on preference.
Simply put, if the patient doesn’t make a habit of taking measurements, then no data is collected. In those cases, intervention from the doctor’s office or responsible care team must step in to prompt active patient engagement.
In order to develop a smoothly running RPM program, it’s important to work with a partner that has a deep understanding of workflow, can manage reimbursement, and understands the intricacies of regulatory compliance.
Healthcare practices are busier than ever these days. It seems that everyone is trying to accomplish more with fewer hours. The pandemic has caused unprecedented upheaval; however, it has also fostered new business innovations. The key is to take advantage of the technological advances. Active patient engagement, coupled with the right technology, can help practices provide more well-rounded care, and better care outcomes.
Jeff LeBrun is the co-founder of Optimize.Health