By Robin Hill
April 2019 – With U.S. healthcare evolving toward a value-based system that rewards quality over quantity, provider organizations are being required to take on more patient risk than in past contractual agreements with payers. That means providers must collect as much relevant patient data as possible to develop risk-minimization strategies.
As a result, the ability to monitor patients outside of the acute-care setting becomes critical to enable clinicians to tackle complex, strategic initiatives to address the needs of their patient population. Empowering patients with turnkey remote patient monitoring (RPM) platforms ensure they remain compliant with their plan of care long after returning to their home. In fact, having the ability to continuously collect key data from at-risk patients such as behavioral and biometric data allows clinicians to never truly discharge a patient from the care they need.
Great technology is not enough. While all roads begin with powerful technology, RPM is going to need more than a sexy interface to succeed. A comprehensive RPM program needs engaged patients to withstand the tests of time and deliver the maximum benefits. Patients who are confident in the technology participate and generate accurate data, know how their participation will contribute to their care, and lastly, feel empowered to troubleshoot issues they may encounter.
It’s time to think big. Studies show isolated interventions typically are not as effective at reducing hospital readmissions as a comprehensive remote patient program can be. To achieve wider adoption and success of systemic care improvements, a few essential components are required:
Start simple. Most remote care programs looking to reduce length of stay and improve outcomes for heart failure patients, for example, make this the place to get started. The outcomes are clear, with reductions in 30-day readmissions and greatly improved patient satisfaction. COPD, hypertension and diabetes are often obvious extensions, leading to various other programs like smoking cessation which support core use cases. Health systems are now using remote care across many service lines managing multiple acute and chronic conditions.
Meet patients where they are. Deploying technology to a population of patients can be challenging for many reasons. Patients will have widely variable comfort levels with technology and the most effective solutions are those that are purpose-built for specific populations. Older populations, who are the ones most likely to require RPM for a variety of acute and chronic conditions, can be resistant to learning new or complex technologies, so it’s important to meet them where they are. Pre-configured devices designed to simplify the patient experience translates into high compliance with onboarding and engagement. Although, a book shouldn’t always be judged by its cover. One of the largest payer/provider organizations launched a patient monitoring program in 2016 to an average patient population of 74 years old, yielding results of 90-93 percent patient compliance. If a program happens to target a more youthful population, utilizing a patient’s own smartphone or tablet is a great solution for younger, rising risk patient groups.
Develop easily digestible content. Anyone who’s ever used YouTube to learn how to make simple home repairs or get instructions on an array of DIY projects knows that seeing is understanding. Applications utilizing educational videos can help answer basic questions that might otherwise lead to additional clinical visits or time spent by staff on the phone explaining relatively simple concepts to patients. These videos, combined with health tips and teach-back questions can head off these issues, so that when a patient does need to interface with their care team, that time is focused on critical care issues.
Share information frequently and freely. Many see remote patient care as a way to stave off unnecessary (and costly) readmissions or clinical visits. That is one of the benefits, of course, but it goes further. By allowing patients to take advantage of features like embedded video conferencing, they are given the keys to their care plan. They no longer feel like they need to wait for a new problem to reach out to their doctor or care team. Rather, they are empowered to share information with their providers more often. This is the crux of patient engagement.
Establish new best practices through technology. Engagement solutions can change a health system’s entire consumer-facing image. Imagine automating many best practice processes in your post discharge care. Questions as basic as, “How are you” “Do you have a fever?” “How is your pain?” “Do you have redness or swelling around your incisions” etc., can be performed through technology-enabled, automated surveys. The patient does not feel neglected and the answers provided by the patients can then be brought to the immediate attention of the care team when key triggers are identified. By reaching out to the patient through low-cost engagement solutions, clinicians are much more likely to get active data from patients versus asking them to log in to an online portal. These technologies can be as simple as a secure text which opens into a smartphone browser, providing an app-like experience, leaving no patient data footprints on the device after the interaction.
Combine solutions to maximize efficiency. By integrating your engagement platform with your portal and app strategy, patients can be guided to more information and care teams will not need to spend valuable time chasing down those 85% of patients who disengage once they return home.
Connected care produces more satisfied patients
Recognizing the impact of connected care services that enable providers to manage and coordinate care at home has on producing better outcomes, CMS moved to provide reimbursement for these services in its final 2019 Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program. This important development has spurred health systems and other provider organizations to examine RPM and similar technologies that coordinate care, drive greater reimbursement and enhance the patient experience.
By providing a real-time line of sight into patients’ health status, RPM solutions can help providers manage patients with chronic and acute conditions while improving patient satisfaction and generating significant return on investment.
About the Author
Robin Hill is Chief Clinical Officer at Vivify Health. She is a Registered Nurse with over 30+ years of healthcare experience which includes acute and post-acute care. The last 12 years have been focused on healthcare IT in the acute and post-acute space. Robin is responsible for leading the clinical and product teams at Vivify Health and is passionate about creating engaging services and solutions for customers and patients.