With the arrival of winter, the United States is grappling with the usual surge in seasonal respiratory illnesses like RSV, flu, and COVID-19, while also facing an increased burden on its healthcare system. As of December 2023, heightened activity of these illnesses, especially in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, is placing significant demands on healthcare providers. Among patients with chronic conditions and compromised immune systems, the impact of these diseases is particularly severe. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is a crucial tool for improving patient care and reducing the escalating pressure on healthcare providers. By leveraging RPM, providers can manage patient care more efficiently, making the technology a dual-benefit solution in this critical time.

How RPM Works

Remote patient monitoring encompasses tools and services designed to streamline patient care outside traditional healthcare settings. Patients employ user-friendly RPM devices to measure data like heart rate, blood pressure, weight, and oxygen saturation. The data is sent wirelessly to healthcare teams for prompt, informed care. This method is beneficial for monitoring conditions such as congestive heart failure, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes, many of which can be worsened by catching a seasonal respiratory illness. When RPM includes clinical monitoring services provided remotely, qualified nursing staff can also manage patients’ concerns related to these illnesses. 

RPM’s Growth During COVID-19 

The COVID-19 pandemic rapidly advanced the adoption of remote patient monitoring, proving vital for patient safety and efficient healthcare management. During the pandemic, monitoring patients in hospitals, emergency departments, and homes was essential to managing patient overflow and maintaining care, especially for those unable to visit healthcare facilities. RPM facilitated this by delivering care remotely.

Home monitoring, enabled by RPM, allowed many patients to receive care at home, easing the load on healthcare facilities and offering patients a safer, more comfortable recovery environment. This highlights RPM’s role in making healthcare more adaptable and patient-centered. 

Studies show RPM, especially monitoring with devices like pulse oximeters, glucometers and weight scales can reduce mortality, although its broader adoption and understanding of its full impact are still developing. Another powerful study during COVID-19 showed remote pulse oximetry and heart rate monitoring improved patient safety, lowered mortality, and resulted in 87% fewer hospitalizations. RPM decreased deaths by 77% and reduced per-patient costs of $11,472 over standard care.

Alleviating Provider Pressure

This isn’t the first difficult winter season we’re having, and it will by no means be the last. Combined with the current shortages of healthcare staff, remote patient monitoring offers a viable opportunity to reduce the burden on providers in several ways:

  1. Targeted Monitoring for Respiratory Illnesses: RPM’s ability to monitor crucial health indicators like oxygen saturation and respiratory rate is particularly beneficial for managing respiratory illnesses. This can lead to early detection of deteriorating conditions in chronic patients with flu, COVID-19, or RSV, allowing for timely interventions.
  2. Timely Response to Respiratory Symptoms: With RPM, physicians can swiftly identify and respond to worsening respiratory symptoms common in diseases like COVID and flu. Early intervention can be critical for patients with chronic conditions, reducing the need for emergency care and hospitalizations.
  3. Optimized Care for Patients with Respiratory Diseases: RPM provides continuous health data, permitting more precise adjustments in treatment for respiratory conditions. This is particularly effective for patients suffering from complications due to respiratory illnesses, enabling better management of conditions like COVID-19-induced pneumonia.
  4. Streamlined Management During Respiratory Illness Outbreaks: Automating data collection and analysis through RPM is invaluable during outbreaks, reducing the administrative burden on healthcare providers and allowing them to focus on direct patient care.
  5. Patient Involvement in Managing Respiratory Health: By engaging patients in monitoring their health, RPM can improve adherence to treatment plans for respiratory illnesses, fostering better self-management and reducing the risk of severe complications.
  6. Expanded Care Capacity for Respiratory Illness Peaks: RPM allows healthcare providers to monitor multiple patients with respiratory diseases simultaneously, improving the capacity to manage outbreaks effectively without compromising care quality.

Read: How Remote Patient Monitoring Can Address the U.S. Healthcare Staffing Shortage 

  1. Minimizing Exposure Risks in Respiratory Epidemics: By reducing the need for in-person consultations, RPM plays a critical role in containing the spread of infectious respiratory diseases within healthcare settings.
  2. Insights into Respiratory Health Trends: Data from RPM can reveal valuable insights into the treatment and management of respiratory illnesses, aiding healthcare providers in adapting strategies during flu, COVID-19, and RSV seasons.
  3. Coordinated Respiratory Care Approach: RPM facilitates better coordination among healthcare professionals, enhancing the management of complex respiratory cases by supporting easy sharing and access to health data.

By leveraging these benefits, RPM services can significantly alleviate the workload and stress on physicians, allowing them to provide high-quality care more efficiently.

RPM Implementation Requirements

Remote patient monitoring has evolved beyond being a mere technological offering from device manufacturers or IT companies. Today, an RPM provider encompasses a broader role, focusing primarily on the clinical program. Leading RPM companies bring decades of experience in working with patients, providing RPM services, and ensuring seamless interaction between patients and healthcare providers. They also supply the necessary devices and services. Requirements for a successful implementation process include:

  • Technological Integration: Successful RPM implementation demands an integration of new monitoring devices and software with existing healthcare systems. This integration should be seamless, enhancing the existing healthcare practices rather than disrupting them.
  • Staff Training and Patient Engagement: Healthcare staff must be adept at using RPM technologies and interpreting the data generated. Simultaneously, patients need to be educated on the importance and usage of RPM devices, ensuring their engagement and compliance.
  • Data Management and Privacy: Handling the large volumes of data generated by RPM devices, while ensuring privacy and security in compliance with regulations like HIPAA, is essential. The RPM provider should offer solutions that manage this complexity effectively.
  • Navigating Reimbursement Policies: Keeping up-to-date with billing codes and insurance policies related to RPM is vital. A proficient RPM provider should guide healthcare systems through these varying and often changing policies, simplifying the reimbursement process. 

Addressing these requirements is essential for successfully deploying RPM in a physician health practice, and RemetricHealth provides the support necessary to achieve this. 

Strategies for Success 

RemetricHealth helps medical practices implement remote patient monitoring, ensuring seamless integration and functionality through the following strategies.

  1. Technological Investment and Integration: We provide cost-effective, compatible RPM devices and software that integrate smoothly with existing healthcare systems, easing the technological transition and reducing associated costs.
  2. Staff Training: RemetricHealth delivers comprehensive training programs for healthcare staff. These programs equip staff to use RPM technologies effectively and to integrate the data into patient care efficiently.
  3. Patient Engagement and Compliance: Understanding the challenges in patient engagement, RemetricHealth supplies user-friendly devices with clear instructions. This approach enhances patient understanding and compliance, making RPM more accessible and easier for patients.
  4. Data Management and Privacy: We manage the large volumes of data generated by RPM devices, ensuring secure data handling. Our platform is HIPAA-compliant, prioritizing the effective management of patient data while maintaining privacy and security.
  5. Navigating Reimbursement Policies: RemetricHealth assists healthcare providers with navigating complex reimbursement policies. We update providers on billing codes and insurance policies, simplifying the RPM reimbursement process.
  6. Equitable Access: Our RPM solutions are scalable and adaptable, designed to ensure that patients in rural or underserved areas have equal access to RPM technologies.
  7. Clinical Workflow Integration: RemetricHealth’s RPM solutions are tailored to complement existing healthcare practices, facilitating smooth integration into clinical workflows without causing disruptions.
  8. Technical Support and Maintenance: We provide ongoing technical support and maintenance for RPM devices, ensuring their reliable operation. This support removes the burden of technical management from healthcare teams.

Through its targeted solution, RemetricHealth effectively supports the process of RPM implementation, enhancing its feasibility and effectiveness in diverse healthcare environments.

Benefits of RPM Services During Flu and COVID-19 Seasons 

The application of RPM during flu and COVID-19 seasons offers substantial current and future benefits in managing patient health and alleviating the strain on physicians and healthcare systems. RPM’s role in reducing hospitalizations and mortality rates is especially pertinent. For example, a study in Value in Health highlighted the potential of remote pulse-oximetry monitoring of COVID-19 patients. It indicated that such tracking could be associated with lower mortality rates and fewer hospitalizations.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have recognized RPM’s value and reformed payment policies to encourage its wider use. This policy shift has facilitated the broader adoption of RPM and expanded its scope beyond traditional remote physiological monitoring.  By allowing health systems to monitor and manage patients remotely, RPM effectively reduces the pressure associated with flu and COVID-19 seasons when minimizing contact is essential.

Providing Relief During Winter’s Healthcare Challenges

As we head into the depths of the respiratory illness season, physician networks that don’t yet have RPM services in place should consider including this in the budget for next year. Despite perceived challenges in implementation, solutions like RemetricHealth integrate seamlessly into healthcare practices and provide significant relief for short-handed and overworked medical staff during these periods. 

For more information about RemetricHealth’s remote patient monitoring service, please contact us to discuss your needs and arrange a demonstration.