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Remote Patient Monitoring

Remote Patient Monitoring: A Definitive Guide

Imagine your patient calmly sipping a beverage and rocking in a backyard hammock—all while reporting her glucose levels and dietary intake to her doctor in your office. No traffic, no crowded waiting room, no exam table to climb onto. She’s completely relaxed and engaged—her provider, on the other hand, is well-informed and more fully equipped to effectively manage her diabetes.

You’ve imagined remote patient monitoring (RPM) at its finest.

The verdict has been out for decades—stress exacerbates most chronic and acute conditions. That means stressed-out patients and stressed-out clinicians seldom accomplish ideal outcomes. 

RPM can relieve some of the logistics-based headaches that come with this profession, making your processes more efficient and your outcomes more satisfying. Whether it’s for monitoring diabetes or reducing the risk of visual impairment, research shows RPM works. This guide will help you implement it at your practice.

What is remote patient monitoring?

Remote patient monitoring is a method of managing acute or chronic conditions via digital technology, securely collecting and sending data from patient to provider. 

RPM enables you to monitor patients while they’re at home, at work, in transit, or even on vacation, using connected health devices like: 

  • Glucose meters for diabetes management
  • Heart rate monitors
  • Blood pressure monitors
  • Continuous dementia surveillance monitors
  • Calorie logging programs
  • Exercise logging programs 
  • Musculoskeletal risk stratification software

This easy-to-use technology allows you to analyze your patients’ physiological parameters and trends to determine whether their condition is stabilized, deteriorating, or improving. 

Years of studies have demonstrated that remote patient monitoring is one of the most effective ways for aging adults to manage chronic diseases like diabetes, heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Americans across all age groups—including seniors—are already using smartphones and tablets, which often resemble RPM platforms. A quality platform makes leveraging technology easy, comfortable, and empowering. It bridges the space between healthcare settings and patients’ living environments so they can partake in the management of their own health. And the more they understand about their care, the less confused they’ll be when it comes time to interact with their payers.

How does remote patient monitoring differ from telehealth?

The term “telehealth” (or “telemedicine”) describes an entire industry—all technological innovations that enable healthcare providers to deliver care to patients remotely. You can deliver telehealth services via phone, videoconference, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, as well as Remote Patient Monitoring platforms.  

When you use technology to facilitate interaction between clinicians in the office and patients in the home, you’re using RPM—just one option in the diverse telehealth delivery landscape.

So, if you’re using RPM, you’re essentially already practicing telehealth. If you have additional needs, you can also use other telehealth tools that gather and exchange shared health data synergistically with RPM.

What are the benefits of effective remote patient monitoring?

Remote patient monitoring brings patient data to your fingertips 24/7. It’s so easy for you and your clinicians to use, as it enables delivery of higher-quality care to a larger number of patients. This means less burnout, higher efficiency, and in the end, lower costs.

When patients can check their vital signs or perform their own hemodialysis, heart rate tracking, or glucose monitoring with your remote guidance, they are likely to reduce costs by minimizing emergency room visits, shortening hospital stays, and preventing readmissions.

By communicating consistently with them and instructing them on how to follow their care plan, you can increase their access to—and comfort with—your care, while at the same time, cutting costs for your practice.

Your treatment efficacy will be greatly enhanced when your patients enjoy the following benefits via RPM.

Access to care

For many patients, getting to a doctor’s appointment is a full-day affair and requires using up precious time off from work. Others have no personal transportation or no convenient access to public transport. Parents often lack childcare and may dread taking a toddler to a bustling medical facility. Under these circumstances, patients might feel that going to an appointment is just not worth it.

In rural regions, access to care is limited, and attending an appointment may require traveling to a different county—or even, for certain conditions, a different state. 

Remote patient monitoring solves these various accessibility limitations for a wide diversity of patients, in much less time and at a lower cost. 

Quality of care

RPM technology enables you to access your patients instantly—right at the moment they’re experiencing pain, confusion, or treatment struggles. While your patients share data and symptoms from the comfort of their desks, you can be sharing instructions from the comfort of yours, too. 

Common medical routines become more efficient and less stressful when patients are communicating exclusively with their doctors instead of switching from clinician to clinician and retelling their story over and over. RPM also helps save time and energy, enabling clinicians to care for each patient more calmly—which reduces your staff’s burnout rate.

Patient engagement

RPM can’t succeed if patients don’t use it. In order to develop self-monitoring habits, patients need to perceive them as useful. Witnessing the improvement of other patients with similar conditions will often help engage your patient as much as any formal instructions can. 

Another way to get your patients excited about monitoring is to be proactive. Check-in often and point out even slight improvements while offering constant encouragement and positive feedback. How frequently should you interact? That depends on the patient—observing each personality and each condition’s severity will guide you to a custom protocol.

Patient education

When they’re not scrambling to and from appointments, looking for childcare, or juggling PTO at work, your patients can afford to really focus on what you’re saying—and what you’re asking them to do. When they interact with you in a quiet, tranquil moment, they’ll be more inclined to be present during your engagements. 

Patients might be more motivated to learn about their condition after having an ongoing conversation (not a 5-minute quick chat) with a provider who’s been with them on their healing journey from day one. Hearing a highly-educated medical professional confirm or question treatment efficacy and recommend alternatives stimulates curiosity and inspires education.

Support

Knowing they can speak with you or watch you demonstrate how to use a device provides assurance for patients that someone is always watching out for them and strategizing their protocol. They feel consistently supported by one provider who will troubleshoot processes and treatments until their condition is cured and their health is stabilized.

Implementing remote patient monitoring into Care Management

Helping your patients and clinicians collaborate on care requires finding a quality platform—which necessitates some research and planning. You’re likely to enjoy real-time remote monitoring more if you follow these steps:

Identify patient needs

Once you’ve identified your group of patients that would benefit from remote patient monitoring, it’s a good idea to segment them by chronic diseases or ailments, if relevant to your organization.  Separating high-risk patients from borderline patients who need less frequent monitoring services will make progress much easier to track and added value easier to prove.

Healthcare professionals practicing chronic Care Management might recommend a wearable device. Whether it’s blood sugar monitors for diabetes or therapeutic cardiac implantable devices for congestive heart failure, patient care and healthcare delivery become more consistent and efficient when communication is continuous.

Acute care patients will need only short-term use, so you can identify them by stages. For example, if surgery is required, you could group them into pre-surgery, post-surgery, and postoperative care. Make sure to include discharge patients who will require rehab in order to avoid readmission. 

Determine goals for all stakeholders

What pain points are you looking to alleviate with RPM technology? Collect answers to that question from your executives, staff members, and patients. Their honest, detailed feedback will help all stakeholders focus on a unified purpose and promote long-term stability within your organization. 

Start with some baseline metrics, then determine your desired endpoint so you can evaluate results and make data-driven decisions. As you collect this input, implement checkpoints to measure progress and pivot when needed until you arrive at a list of goals that all stakeholders can embrace—and that will drive patient engagement. 

Choose your Care Management software with great care

Before considering any RPM system, you will want to be sure to evaluate all its operations. Does it allow you to integrate the devices you’re currently using? Does it offer long-term support? Is it user-friendly for all members of your care team and patients? 

Ask for referrals and read some case studies. Schedule demonstrations for your clinicians, then gather their feedback. 

Make sure the platform features: 

  • Data integrations
  • Workflow management
  • Enhanced communication capabilities
  • Scalability
  • User-friendliness

If you can check all of the boxes above, you’ve likely found a very valuable tool that both patients and providers will embrace with enthusiasm—and enthusiastic users make for outstanding outcomes.

Deploy your new platform and train all stakeholders

Health systems may take a few months to complete the initial deployment of a new RPM solution. You’ll be tweaking and optimizing clinical workflows and setting a core care standard. Make sure to document what works well and what requires some intervention. Human resources issues may also need to be addressed. Always abide by licensing laws when training staff so as not to overburden them or anger union leaders. 

Make sure you have multiple lines of support. At first, you’ll likely hear simple onboarding questions about turning on devices and syncing with tablets. Your RPM vendor may provide a second line of support for more serious challenges. The quality and quantity of onboarding support are critical to efficacy.

Your program’s success requires ongoing, multi-faceted education for both providers and patients. Some people prefer to read about processes and conditions. Others will request video training and learning. Aim to customize education for each patient’s preference and learning style.

Frequently asked questions about remote patient monitoring

Let’s walk through some of the most common questions about this breakthrough trend so you can best determine whether it’s right for you and your organization. We are all about empowering clinicians and program directors to make informed decisions.

How do I get my patients to follow through with RPM?

Motivating patients to embrace RPM usually requires three steps:

  • Educate: make sure you thoroughly demonstrate both the technology and the evidence-based reasons for its use.
  • Activate: ensure patients are able to navigate their device and understand their role in the care process.
  • Engage: imbue each interaction with uplifting feedback and ongoing emotional and informational support.

What makes an RPM program successful?

Success can be tracked only when all patients and clinicians are on board and on the same page—which requires customizing your care. You’re not merely treating a disease, but a person. Each one will have a different communication style, as well as physical and emotional needs.

A generic list of questions and answers won’t engage and earn the trust of your diverse body of patients. Actively listen to learn what makes them tick, then respond appropriately. Sharing results data with your patients can prove to them that your RPM works and encourage them to continue using it.

What conditions does RPM help manage most effectively?

Although any acute or chronic condition can benefit from RPM, these conditions are most common and clinically validated:

  • COPD
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension 
  • Dementia
  • Post-op follow-ups
  • Fertility 
  • Addiction care
  • Behavioral health

The bottom line? 

A quality RPM frees up more time and energy for you to spend treating your patients. Intrigued? Speak with a Welkin Care Management expert to discover how to empower your care team with remote patient monitoring.