Cofounder and Ceo of FitPeo Inc. An initiative to provide better preventive care to those who need it the most.
After the world was shut down by the Covid-19 pandemic, telehealth—and especially remote patient monitoring (RPM)—became widely recognized in the world. RPM has acted as a boon for patients with chronic health conditions who need regular checkups or monitoring and acts as a bridge between the patient and the healthcare provider. RPM is the advanced process of keeping an eye on patients after electronically analyzing their health data and conveying it to healthcare providers so that necessary actions can be taken, helping to reduce hospital admissions or readmissions.
Why Do Healthcare Providers And Patients Try To Avoid Hospital Readmissions?
Hospital readmissions have considerably imposed a financial burden on the United States healthcare system. Readmission is quite expensive as well as detrimental to both the medical institutions and patients. According to a report published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the average cost of readmission is $15,200 per patient. As of 2018, there were “3.8 million adult hospital readmissions within 30 days” in the U.S. Undue stress and frustration also negatively impact the patients.
Two RPM Solutions That Collect Biometric Data To Ultimately Reduce Readmissions
1. Patch-based sensors. Very thin, soft and comfortable-to-wear biosensors or patch-based sensors have opened a new door for RPM by continuously collecting different types of biometric data, including ECG (electrocardiogram), heart rate and body posture. This data is streamed to patients’ smartphones and physicians’ customized devices like tablets. This can ease the physicians’ process of clinical decision making and can be an advantage for the patients.
2. Biometric Bluetooth devices. Bluetooth-enabled biometric devices like glucometers, weighing scales and blood pressure cuffs collect patients’ respective data.
How Can RPM Reduce Hospital Readmission?
By reducing the need for patients to physically visit healthcare providers, RPM can reduce hospital readmissions by applying the following strategies.
1. Identification and monitoring of high-risk patients. Patients with a higher risk of readmissions can be provided with a comprehensive virtual care plan, which includes a communication device paired with Bluetooth peripherals for keeping tabs on a patient’s health data in real time and customizing risk alerts via RPM to enable clinicians to respond quickly in an emergency.
2. Improvement of transitional care management. RPM helps in a trouble-free transitional process for patients with chronic conditions by introducing a personalized patient education module that enables patients to learn about their health conditions and manage their treatment.
3. Automated medication reminders. Patients’ recovery and the success of their treatment mostly depend on medication adherence. Healthcare providers, via RPM, can improve patients’ medication-taking behavior by setting up alerts and voice calls.
How Can Hospitals Prepare For RPM?
After analyzing the existing RPM interfaces, we have segregated the transition process into six steps.
• Identify the need and opportunity. Before setting up the RPM systems, the provider should be clear about the understanding of the whole process and how they would need to go about it. Transitioning to healthtech and using Bluetooth devices from a traditional setup is not an easy task, but it is needed.
• Goal-setting. Providers should be talking to the market experts and estimating their patient footfall on the interface, keeping in mind their existing clients and patient records. They can then set up future goals, achieve the prospect of periodic targets and estimate potential revenue with little margin of difference.
• The RPM system integration. This is the most important step for any provider. Going for the most compatible technical platform in the market would require some market research. Providers would need to decide whether they want an in-house setup, want to hire a special RPM technical team or outsource it completely. RPM systems should be easy to understand, easy to use, compatible with big data and support Bluetooth devices.
• Training clinical staff. We need to understand that the concept of RPM would be new to the staff and employees alike. Resource training is very important.
• Identify and onboard patients. After the successful integration of the RPM system, the patients eligible for RPM and other services should be identified and trained accordingly. Onboarding them on the interface and providing them with support would be necessary.
• Delivery, engagement and feedback. Continuous engagement with the end user and regular feedback is required to ensure proper growth toward our goals. Providers would need to make sure that the staff and the patients are able to engage smoothly, their data is being captured accurately and they are feeling positive about the whole process.
Though RPM is becoming more popular, there are still some challenges that might hinder the further growth and revolution in the healthtech industry.
1. Data security. The challenge of data breaches is discussed a lot. Both the providers and the end users have their reservations about the overall data management, boundaries of ownership and security issues. Some startups are still using third-party integrations for data management, which can put safety and data security at risk.
2. Proficiency in understanding data. A good number of providers and doctors use traditional methods of logistical clinical operations and management. Transferring knowledge to the providers would be a different task altogether as far as the interface and data representation is concerned.
3. System integration. RPM requires a technical and holistic tool that can provide data storage, a user-friendly interface and easy-to-use Bluetooth devices.
To Put It Concisely
RPM can electronically analyze patients’ health data (especially those with chronic health conditions) and relay it to the clinicians for immediate decision-making. It’s completely different from traditional monitoring methods, and it can help ease hospitals’ and patients’ economic and mental burdens via wearables like patch-based sensors. With RPM progressing exponentially, I believe there could soon be a time when patients’ and physicians’ communication will only be virtual, and there will be no need for any patient to be admitted to a hospital.