In the last decade—even prior to the monumental events of 2020— businesses worldwide have begun a gradual shift to remote and asynchronous operations. Although the healthcare industry has seen some adoption of these practices, it wasn’t until this year that the sector was forced into what is, for all intents and purposes, a fully-remote working environment. This has had significant impacts on patient care, and medical professionals have struggled to effectively provide personalized healthcare in the midst of this rapid upheaval. 

By leveraging modern technology tools, however, providers are able to effectively accommodate these new norms, keeping tabs on their patients’ health just as closely as they could in-person. 

Remote patient monitoring solutions are at the forefront of this telehealth revolution, providing medical experts with real-time insights into the well-being of their patients, no matter where they’re located.

Remote Patient Monitoring Defined

Traditionally, getting a holistic view of a person’s health has required a regimen of in-person examinations, conducted strictly in a conventional healthcare setting. Thanks to recent information technology developments, however, providers like hospitals and physicians are able to wield the power of remote patient monitoring— also referred to as remote patient management, or RPM. 

Remote patient monitoring is generally defined as a method of healthcare delivery that utilizes cutting-edge IT services and devices to obtain patient data outside of the traditional healthcare context. From remote sensors like glucometers that can transmit data to the cloud to self-service wellness advice, providers are beginning to unlock innovative new capabilities by bringing their care out of the office and right into their patients’ homes (an ability that is now more important than ever before). 

Some of the major advantages of utilizing RPMs  include:

  • Better quality of care– Patients can sometimes affect their condition by what they eat, how much physical activity they get, and adhering to medication. By using an RPM providers are able to more closely monitor them and provide feedback on a consistent basis where formerly they couldn’t. 
  • Increased revenue streams– With reimbursements and additional funding, providers can see an increase in revenue for things like reviewing patient data not only increasing revenue but improving patient outcomes. 
  • Increased patient accountability– Dr. Kvedar from The Center for Connected Health in Boston has taken part in a RPM program focused on heart failure since 2003. He’s found that when patients know they are being watched it incentivizes compliance, “They know we’re watching, they know we care, and that plays a real role in the success of the program.” 
  • Improved patient outcomes– Much like the results seen from The Center for Connected Health in Boston, RPMs provide consistent access to a patient’s health giving providers more awareness of their condition. This allows doctors and nurses to make changes to care or check-in more often resulting in better outcomes. In fact, Dr. Kvedar reported of their program, a 50% drop in all-cause readmissions and a positive impact on patient mortality,

How Remote Patient Monitoring Works

To unlock the most transformative capabilities of remote patient monitoring, healthcare professionals use a range of wireless devices, mobile technologies, and data science tools to pick up on trends and signals embedded in their patients’ data. 

Instruments like weight scales and blood pressure gauges connect to a patient’s phone via Bluetooth, and data is transmitted directly to a clinician for in-depth examination and interpretation. This allows doctors to keep their finger on the pulse of patient wellness— and as artificial intelligence and analytics developments accelerate, healthcare insights and recommendations will only continue to improve and diversify.

Implementing a Remote Patient Monitoring Program

The systems and technologies required to establish your own remote monitoring practice are increasingly accessible, and a number of proven frameworks for constructing them have emerged. Providers seeking to implement an RPM system can carry out the following process:

  • Step 1: Specify use cases. Identify which of your patients would benefit most from remote patient monitoring processes before you fully implement the program. Establish success metrics, rally stakeholders around the initiative, and scale-out incrementally.
  • Step 2: Determine budget and scope. Gauge the level of commitment you want to have with your partners and vendors, from a “devices only” relationship to full-service software and consulting engagements.
  • Step 3: Establish workflows. Narrow down which of your staff members will be responsible for managing the system, determine onboarding/offboarding protocols, and define clear processes for patient alerts and interactions.
  • Step 4: Finalize vendor relationships. Obtain your desired combination of devices, software, and services, and be sure to check everything for compliance with HIPAA and other pertinent rules and regulations.
  • Step 5: Begin patient engagement. Kick-off your initiative with clear communication and quality training programs, ensuring both patients and providers understand how to operate in this new healthcare paradigm.
  • Step 6: Evaluate and iterate. Inspect the results of your program against a set of predetermined success criteria, adjusting workflows and partnerships in response to obstacles and opportunities.

The process of implementing a remote monitoring system won’t be seamless— it’ll take some time for all parties to adjust to new interfaces, routines, and practices. By responding to feedback and continuously iterating, however, patients and healthcare providers will quickly adjust to these new norms, obtaining the full range of benefits telehealth solutions can provide.

Reimbursement and Funding for Remote Patient Monitoring

While it’s reasonable to feel wary about the prospect of investing into an entirely new system, providers have flexibility when it comes to how they handle funding their remote patient monitoring programs. In general, reimbursements are processed in two primary ways:

  • Fee-For-Service: Thanks to a remote providers’ ability to instantaneously monitor and analyze health data, patients now have the option to obtain check-ups on an incremental basis. Individuals can pay on a per-usage basis for a diversity of services like blood pressure analysis and glucose monitoring.
  • Populations-Based Payments: Many healthcare providers may choose to utilize their existing infrastructure for leveraging population-based payment mechanisms, including care management fees or annual budgets, which may or may not be directly tied to RPM initiatives. 

Federal Funding 

In addition to funding RPM programs via fee-for-service and population-based methods, healthcare practitioners can also take advantage of a variety of federal funding programs— many of which are specifically targeted towards supporting telehealth solutions.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES)

The CARES act is a $2 trillion economic relief package passed by Congress near the end of March— has directed $175 billion of direct funding towards offsetting provider expenses and lost revenue related to the COVID-19 pandemic. With this supplementary economic support, healthcare professionals will have increased flexibility when it comes to funding their new telehealth initiatives and solutions.

As part of the CARES Act, the Federal Communications Commission has also provisioned a more focused telehealth program, allocating $200 million specifically for healthcare providers seeking to implement remote monitoring services. This funding can cover the following:

  • Funding telecommunications
  • Information technology
  • Hardware needs 

Medicare and Medicaid Programs

Finally, programs under the Medicare and Medicaid umbrellas have rapidly expanded their support for remote patient monitoring solutions. While benefits vary state-by-state, recent changes to their offerings (including expanded coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment) have made these federal programs far more capable of handling the full spectrum of remote healthcare needs.

Customized Remote Patient Monitoring Software Development 

With the added capabilities of remote monitoring solutions, patients now have access to telehealth services for a variety of conditions. From heart failure to diabetes to general patient care nearly every individual can benefit from these innovative new capabilities, no matter where they live or what their needs are. But remote patient monitoring is only as good as the software that runs it. illumisoft can give providers confidence and exceed expectations by combining technologies and strategies that help providers meet even the most ambitious of healthcare goals. 

illumisoft is a custom software development company that specializes in healthcare solutions. They provide simple data automation and management for complicated tracking, data entry, and database integration systems. Essentially they can create a custom remote patient monitoring solution based on your needs and serve as a guide during the process. 

When it comes to software in the healthcare industry, the stakes are especially high as having reliable remote patient monitoring could be the difference between life and death. With illumisoft, providers can take the guesswork out of implementing a RPM program, equipping teams with the tools needed to provide patients with the best remote healthcare experience possible.

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