The current healthcare staffing shortage facing the nation is very concerning. A report from Definitive Healthcare shows that since 2020, one in every five healthcare workers has quit their job. By 2025, up to 47% plan to leave their positions. This scenario will have a massive impact on patient care over the short and long term. Remote patient monitoring services (RPM) and other forms of telehealth offer options medical institutions can use to alleviate the challenges created by this worker shortage.

Where the Largest Shortages Exist

Some of the largest staffing shortages exist in areas that could be well-served by virtual methods. Family practice, clinical psychology, and psychiatry combined lost more than 30,000 physicians in Q4 2021 alone.[1] These three areas can comfortably transition to a telehealth model in a large percentage of cases. After physicians, nurse practitioners are the second largest group to quit, with 53,295 leaving the workforce during Q4 2021.[2] This has resulted in less-than-ideal care, caused by significant changes in patient-to-provider ratios.

The Impact on Patient Care

The worker shortage has dramatically impacted several aspects of patient care. ICU nurses who previously managed two patients during a shift are now required to care for double that number. To mitigate the problem, hospitals and other institutions are having to spend more on contract staff.

According to a report by Kaufmann Hall, this triggered a rapid rise in labor costs, with median hourly wage rates for contract nurses soaring to $132 by March 2022. The growing demand for in-home care, particularly for elderly patients, adds to this problem.

The Demand for Home Care

During the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple undesirable situations that existed in long-term care homes came to light. This boosted the already-rising demand for home care for both the elderly and for chronic disease patients of every age group.

The role of travel nursing also increased in popularity as demand pushed wages higher. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects it will continue to grow by 25% between 2021 and 2031. However, telemedicine can go a long way toward easing the healthcare worker shortage.

How RPM and Telehealth Can Help

RPM and telehealth are both components of telemedicine. RPM is a vast, expanding field, projected to grow by a CAGR of 38.2% from US$23.2 billion in 2020 to US$ 117.1 billion by 2025.

A real-time, virtual service, RPM allows healthcare providers to oversee and treat more patients in more locations, and to gather data about them using mobile and wearable health monitoring devices. The data is recorded at the patient’s home and transmitted to the provider via internet connectivity using cloud applications. Clinicians can view and save the data to generate insights into the patient’s health.

Telehealth, on the other hand, is the use of telecommunications to enable long-distance contact between the clinician and patient for the purposes of intervention, care, advice, and remote hospital admissions.

Benefits of RPM

Remote patient monitoring services allow practitioners to follow their patients’ progress, capture data, and to intervene when an alert is triggered that could indicate the patient’s condition is worsening. Monitoring gives patients the support they need to track their symptoms, adhere to their medication regimen, and follow their progress. It reduces the cost, stress, and inconvenience of having to attend a clinic in person. It also simultaneously helps providers to reduce their workloads and the associated burnout and stress.

Telehealth Benefits

Telehealth virtual visits enable patients to consult face-to-face with their practitioner, regardless of location. Referrals to specialists are seamless, and the consultations also use face-to-face technology. Quarantined or unvaccinated individuals can meet with their doctors and access care appointments without traveling and exposing others to contagion.

Patients benefit from reduced transportation costs, less time off work, minimal inconvenience, and risk of infection. Clinicians benefit from reduced risk of contagion, greater patient adherence, improved patient satisfaction and retention, higher profitability, and a closer relationship with their patients.

The Numbers Have It

All this sounds impressive, but how much can RPM really help to alleviate the U.S. healthcare staffing shortage? Quite a lot, apparently. A study conducted during the pandemic showed that out of a typical cohort of 3,100 patients, RPM could lessen hospital admissions by 87%, reduce deaths by 77%, and lower per-patient costs by U.S. $11,472, while the patients gained 0.013 quality-adjusted years of life.

These numbers are not only an improvement against traditional healthcare but indicate the value of the RPM solution in meeting the current healthcare staffing need. The CDC’s risk mitigation strategy touts adjusting staff schedules, hiring additional workers, canceling non-essential procedures and visits, and rotating HCPs from other areas into patient care activities. Meanwhile, RPM offers an alternative that could last well beyond the immediate crisis and become the accepted standard of care.

[1] P6

[2]  P4

For more information on how remote patient monitoring services can help your healthcare institution mitigate staff shortages while improving patient outcomes, please contact us.