Originally written and shared at Dotmed.com. From the May 2019 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine
By Eric Rock
The automobile has been credited for entirely changing the face of American society in the 20th century. Once personal transportation became affordable, especially in the post-World War II era, we became much more mobile as a country — which meant the old limitations of time and distance were no longer an obstacle to work or play.
Yet imagine if, after purchasing all of those vehicles, Americans had simply let them sit in the garage or the driveway. The impact of all those automobiles would have been negligible.
We are at a similar, century-defining moment of mobility right now with patient-generated health data and remote patient monitoring (RPM). Healthcare has always been viewed as a service; patients passively receive — usually in a designated, clinical setting. That is now changing.
Virtually everyone in America either owns a device that can monitor and share various aspects of their health or knows someone who does. In fact, it has been estimated that by 2020, 40 percent of Internet of Things (IoT) devices will have healthcare applications.
While getting all those devices into the marketplace is important, it’s only half the battle. Maybe even the lesser half. The real value comes when all those devices start automatically feeding that data into systems that can help us generate better population health outcomes through the use of machine learning, neural networks and artificial intelligence (AI) platforms.
Achieving that level of participation is often easier said than done. Just ask anyone who has tried to get audience responses during a business presentation, or has even tried to get friends to sing or clap along at a campfire.
To help patients take to remote engagement the way Americans once took to driving cars, the best approach is to use purpose-driven outreach in the least intrusive way possible. By making it easier for patients to connect directly to their care teams from remote locations, care teams can receive real-time streams of health data that will help them manage both individuals and entire populations more effectively.
Here are some tips to get started on the pathway to remote patient monitoring and connected care.
Keep it simple
If you try to take on too much, or try to solve too many issues at once, you are likely to fail at all of them. Most initial remote care pilot programs aim for core goals, such as reducing length of stay or improving outcomes for one chronic condition such as heart failure, where the outcomes are quickly clear. Once you have established that RPM works within your organization you can begin extending it to other conditions such as COPD, hypertension or diabetes. Or you can incorporate it into existing treatment programs such as smoking cessation. Before you know it, you’ll have a robust RPM program.
Easy does it
Early automobiles were extremely easy to understand, which made them more attractive to more people. The same should be true for an RPM program. Your patient population has widely diverging comfort levels when it comes to using technology. You need to make it as easy as possible for patients to get started. Ensure your RPM system is purpose-built for specific patient populations. For example, elderly patients who are not very tech-savvy will need pre-configured devices that are easy to use. Younger patients with rising risk, on the other hand, may prefer to bring their own devices to the program. You need to develop programs that meet each group where they live. By keeping patients’ familiarity with devices and adaptability to user interfaces in mind, your care teams can overcome any hesitations or apprehensions patients may have around participating in RPM programs.
Consumable content is king
When most of us have a question we feel is beyond our current competence level, such as the proper way to jump a battery, or trouble understanding what the icon version of a check engine light means, we often look to YouTube to see if there’s a video that will explain it. In an RPM program, compelling educational videos can help reduce unnecessary clinic visits for basic questions or time spent on the phone explaining simple care concepts to patients. Videos, health tips, and teach-back questions can often minimize or even eliminate situations where patients feel they need to interact directly with the care team, ensuring the team is spending its time with patients who actually do need them.
Communication is key
To truly empower patients within their plans of care, it is imperative that you get them to take advantage of features such as embedded video conferencing so they can share information with their providers more frequently. This approach enables them to unleash the full power of patient engagement, making them a true partner on the care team.
Proactive versus reactive
Healthcare has typically been a reactive industry, waiting for patients to come on-site, answer/return a phone call, or log in to a patient portal to seek treatment or provide information about their condition. A well-designed RPM program opens the door for a much more proactive approach. For example, low-cost engagement solutions such as secure text messaging can open a survey through a smartphone browser with a single touch, making it easy for patients to answer post-discharge questions through a secure, app-like experience.
Closing the loop
To achieve its greatest value, the RPM system should not stand alone. Instead, it must be integrated into your healthcare enterprise’s portal and app strategies. For example, with a simple text, the RPM system can guide patients to access even more information through other apps or even connect directly to the secure electronic health records (EHR) patient platform that contains their personal record. As a result, your care teams won’t have to spend valuable time chasing down the 85 percent of patients who struggle to access those services on their own.
Just as the automobile gave Americans a new feeling of freedom due to great mobility, RPM holds the same promise. Only this time the benefit of mobility isn’t just about increased accessibility to visiting faraway places. We’re on the cusp of dramatically impacting something far more powerful — our health.
The best-laid plans are only as good as the participants involved. In order to ensure RPM success, patients will need to actively and consistently participate by sharing their data with their care teams. The more patients who join on the pathway to connected care, the better off we’ll all be.