Where Have All the Doctors Gone? Solving the Shortage
The projections are troubling. By 2030, the U.S. faces a shortage of as many as 100,000 doctors, from primary care physicians to specialists. The senior population is projected to grow by 55 percent over the next 15 years, stretching healthcare providers even further to treat an aging population, many with chronic conditions who will opt for care and support at home. To prepare for the coming storm, the providers and payers looking for sustainable alternatives that can extend the reach of shrinking clinical resources while improving patient outcomes and reducing costs.
Searching for solutions
A viable solution to the physician shortage is remote patient monitoring (RPM). This healthcare model seamlessly integrates information technologies that put patients at the center of care—at home or wherever they happen to be. Healthcare providers and health plans can manage chronic condition patients remotely, tracking results regularly, adjusting care plans as needed, and providing ongoing support to help patients successfully navigate their conditions.
A well-known trailblazer using RPM technology is UPMC, an integrated provider and insurer based in Pittsburgh, Pa. UPMC’s reach spans more than 30 hospitals, over 600 physician offices and outpatient sites, and a 3.2 million-member insurance services division. Since 2016, UPMC has partnered with Vivify Health, an international digital-health company and leader in transforming healthcare delivery, in implementing Vivify’s cloud-based RPM solution. The technology is used by more than 700 leading hospitals and payers nationwide.
“We’re relying on Vivify’s solution to efficiently monitor, manage, and engage populations of all sizes and risk levels,” says Dr. Andrew Watson, UPMC vice president and medical director of UPMC Telemedicine. “It provides a dynamic, continuous care model that enables us to conduct virtual care visits, communicate easily with our patients and members, and detect and respond to problems swiftly—avoiding preventable crisis events.
“The statistics are compelling. Medicare members who use the Vivify solution are 76 percent less likely to be readmitted to the hospital.”
Key to the success of RPM technology is its ability to readily scale to larger and larger populations. “Vivify has simplified this technology, providing a fully managed remote care kit that gives at-home patients instant-on use,” Dr. Watson says. “The kit integrates seamlessly with our information technology and clinical processes. We’re also deploying the platform to our patients’ own devices, from smartphones to tablets. Bottom line? We can reach sizable populations to manage chronic conditions, reduce or eliminate preventable hospitalizations, and involve patients more fully in their care—through frequent contact, educational content, and proactive guidance.
“Vivify also maintains the equipment on our behalf, providing 24×7 support directly to our patients and health plan members and monitoring the devices to resolve any technical issues.”
Satisfying the Quadruple Aim
Along with bridging the gaps created by the physician shortage, RPM can help healthcare stakeholders achieve the Quadruple Aim, the industry formula for improving health system performance—through better outcomes, lower costs, an enhanced patient experience, and an improved work life for physicians and staff.
“In this four-goal quest, RPM technology is a powerful tool,” says Eric Rock, Vivify founder and CEO. “It produces better outcomes by enabling faster, more informed clinical intervention. It lowers costs by reducing hospital admissions as much as 65 percent and the overall cost of care by 90 percent. It enhances the patient experience as patients benefit from a continued connection with their medical team and become true partners in their care. And, it improves the clinician experience by extending the reach of limited resources, streamlining clinical processes, and creating a manageable workflow.”
Shaping a new business model
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have finalized the rules that will pay providers for remote monitoring. The goal is to reward healthcare technologies that improve patient outcomes, increase care efficiencies, and reduce healthcare spending. At the same time, the American Medical Association has published new codes that make it easier to bill all health insurers for RPM. These dual developments bode well for the future of digital health.
“With the challenge of shrinking clinical resources, providers will continue to rethink their business models, looking for strategies that deliver better outcomes, keep down costs, and bring more care into the home,” Dr. Watson says. “We can expect RPM to grow exponentially in the years ahead—delivering continued value and paving the way for the future of healthcare.”
UPMC has a financial interest in Vivify Health.