Health organizations that had RPM solutions in place pre-pandemic have been more successful at scaling up than organizations that were starting from scratch during the pandemic.
COVID-19 has impacted our health system in some very clear ways and in ways that we are only beginning to predict the longer term impacts. It has led to exhausted clinicians, delayed care or treatment for patients with non-COVID-19 health issues, and many more stresses on our health ecosystem.
The pandemic has also forced many changes on the health system, some of those which may actually result in better patient care now and post-pandemic. One of those positive changes is the growth in Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) , digital health, and virtual visit solutions for chronic condition management, behavioral health, and other non-emergent episodes of care.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a game-changer for RPM. As stressed health systems limit in-person care to mitigate COVID spread, RPM has become a viable option for patients who still need regular critical support from health care providers.
The CDC estimates that telehealth use rose by 50% in just the first quarter of 2020 and 154% in the last week of March 2020 alone. While telehealth has been an important tool in maintaining connection to healthcare professionals during the pandemic, clinicians seeing patients over a video link are missing data like blood pressure, weight, sleep, physical activity, etc., that would normally be collected in person.
RPM solutions can enable clinicians to collect this important information while still meeting with patients remotely. While the near-term benefit is reducing the risk of the patient contracting COVID-19 in the healthcare setting, the long term benefits of RPM are that it can improve quality of care, reduce costly ER visits, and potentially improve health outcomes. With the drive to value-based care in government supported health plans, these measures are particularly important.
Health organizations that had RPM solutions in place pre-pandemic have been more successful at scaling up than organizations that were starting from scratch during the pandemic. Before the pandemic started, organizations deploying RPM were able to get into people’s homes to set up monitoring tools and show them how to use the new technology. They had time, whether in person or remotely, to onboard patients, coach them on self-efficacy in managing their condition, and empower them to play an extremely active role in the daily management of their health.
Both clinicians and patients had time to get comfortable with the RPM tools and processes, which made them more effective and useable once the pandemic made them necessary. They also were able to learn what worked, what didn’t and make updates to their onboarding approach and the efficacy of their overarching solutions accordingly. With clinicians already at a certain comfort level, taking an RPM program and expanding it to a larger patient population would be relatively easy in comparison to rapidly launching and scaling a new RPM solution during the pandemic, when both patients and staff would face a steep learning curve without access to training, troubleshooting support, and other necessary tools due to the rapid uptick in demand.
Given the persistent duration of the pandemic and the continual increasing need for remote monitoring, examining pre-Pandemic success criteria and transferring them into Pandemic-era practices can help make your remote patient monitoring programs successful despite the challenges, and position them for continued use post-Pandemic.
Lessons Learned from Pandemic-era RPM Rollouts
In spite of the challenges of the pandemic , it is still possible for health care organizations to successfully launch and scale RPM programs, with a little patience and determination. Some key learnings that are already emerging include:
Healthcare Organizations Innovating in RPM
There are a number of healthcare organizations already innovating creative ways to care for patients without seeing them face-to-face.
Insurers like Humana are focusing on addressing Covid-19 gaps in access to care that are being experienced by people with a chronic condition by helping them to receive the care they need in a virtualized environment including the set-up of remote patient monitoring solutions.
RPM and digital health solutions have the potential to help transform health care, by providing access to needed tools and resources in the home - giving patients a more active role in their own health maintenance and empowering them to make focusing on wellness part of their daily routine. COVID-19 has forced some health organizations to turn to RPM unexpectedly, but with the right approach, embracing RPM and digital health solutions could improve the health of many over the long term.
Amy Heymans, founder and chief experience officer, Mad*Pow and Tiffany Mura, VP Client Experience & Strategy, Health, Mad*Pow.