Remote Patient Monitoring: Vital Tools for Providers
It might seem difficult for clinicians to monitor patients 24/7 outside of a traditional clinical setting, but advancements in technology are enabling providers to be engaged and vigilant at any hour, day or night. It’s known as remote patient monitoring (RPM), and even though it’s existed for years, it has only recently become a vital component of the national healthcare landscape.
We’ve used RPM at Contessa since the inception of our programs. The greatest success has been treating acutely ill patients and those living with chronic diseases – two populations who often struggle to travel to the hospital or clinic for in-person evaluations. That’s a large part of why providers (and patients) should expect RPM to become more ingrained in their healthcare experience.
What is remote patient monitoring?
Put simply, newer technologies have made it possible for providers to connect with patients even when they are at separate locations. Remote patient monitoring tools enhance virtual care by allowing providers to monitor patients’ key biometrics and vital signs. This includes data such as blood pressure, blood oxygen, blood sugar, weight, heart rate and rhythm and even lung and bowel sounds, all without being physically present with the patient.
RPM enables the assessment of patient health and wellbeing and can be leveraged in a variety of settings, from acute care to the management of chronic diseases. Providers stand to benefit greatly from integrating RPM into their clinical services. RPM enhances continuity of care and (somewhat counterintuitively) allows for closer contact with patients, giving providers a sightline to vitals and baseline data points at home, at all hours, rather than in a temporary clinical setting.
The ability to track health data in between appointments and visits is a major advantage to both efficiency and peace of mind, as providers can more clearly oversee and manage health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, dementia and respiratory disease.
How remote patient monitoring can improve outcomes
In many ways, this technology is still in its infancy. First on the scene prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, like many recent advances in technology RPM has seen rapid growth. During the pandemic, this growth was spurred out of necessity, as quarantines and social isolation kept many patients out of hospitals and doctors’ offices.
Using RPM to help relieve hospital capacity strain during the pandemic showed positive results, and some hospital systems piloted programs using this technology to specifically monitor COVID-19 patients for complications post-discharge. In a similar fashion, our Recovery Care at Home program successfully leverages RPM to monitor patients diagnosed with COVID-19, instead during the acute phase of their illness. For patients who test positive for COVID-19, home-based monitoring can also reduce the risk of transmission.
Early studies have demonstrated positive results when RPM is used to support patient care delivery. A systematic literature review in 2017 indicated generally positive results across all studies reviewed, with key positive outcomes including improved patient self-management of care, improved quality of life and reduced hospitalizations.
Other studied outcomes include positive effects on common, serious chronic health conditions. For example, a report shared by the journal JAMA Open Network examined positive long-term blood pressure management with RPM compared to usual care.
Another study published in The BMJ showed reduced mortality and emergency admission rates when telemonitoring was used to support the care of patients with diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart failure—common conditions treated in our Comprehensive Care at Home program.
How remote patient monitoring can reduce costs
It’s these reduced complication and admission rates that help drive cost-effective care and improved reimbursements in value-based care delivery. Although implementation of RPM technology comes with a price tag, healthcare providers are beginning to recognize the return on investment of these interventions.
What does this look like in numbers? According to a report published by KLAS Research, key outcomes include a 17% reduction of quantifiable costs, a 38% reduction in hospital admissions, 25% fewer ER visits, 25% less hospital readmissions and importantly, a 25% increase in patient satisfaction. Each of these contributes to the reduction of high costs driven by poor outcomes.
How remote patient monitoring can improve health equity
Many patient populations experience disparate access to care for any number of reasons. Among those are challenges to access in rural communities, mobility and transportation constraints (particularly in older adults) and even simply lack of time due to family and work obligations.
Remote patient monitoring connects valuable patient data insights to providers in a much more accessible way, without patients having to leave their homes or travel to time-consuming appointments. As it continues to advance and is implemented in more programs of care, the barriers that keep certain patients away from high-quality care will be reduced significantly.
Remote patient monitoring in action
Contessa’s RPM process begins with our welcome kits, which include Bluetooth-enabled tablets for patients to use at home. These tablets come with peripheral Bluetooth-enabled devices such as a blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter and scale that connect to the tablet and allow for the transfer of biometric data. These devices are intuitive, making for seamless implementation and ease-of-use for patients challenged by age or disease.
We also use RPM technology to track patient data and information related to their overall health and wellbeing. When changes are detected that may require intervention, like a pacemaker adjustment or longer-term interventions like medication modifications and lifestyle changes, teams are instantly alerted and can take immediate and appropriate action. We’ve seen RPM trigger changes in treatment regimens and visitation schedules, ultimately driving better outcomes and even saving lives.
The future of remote patient monitoring
As virtual care services continue to expand, chronic conditions increase, social determinants of health are further explored and the consumerization of healthcare grows, expect to see RPM implemented as a standard for patient care.
Providers using RPM technology can ensure that patients are receiving early intervention and adjusted treatment plans when needed, and patients can rest easy knowing they don’t have to travel to their hospital or clinic just to communicate with their doctor about their health.
Though RPM is just one more tool in the at-home hospitalist’s toolbox, it is quickly becoming a critical one in modern medicine. These initial advances have come quickly, and we’re confident that more are on the horizon, meaning even better care coordination when it’s never been more important. As always, Contessa will continue to be on the forefront of innovation in healthcare, including the use of remote patient monitoring to deliver patient care.