In the healthcare industry, post-acute care and rehabilitation are critical components of the patient journey. With 15 million people needing post-acute care annually, of whom approximately 8.6 million require rehabilitation, these two functions alone are a huge drain on the United States’ healthcare system. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) now empowers healthcare professionals to oversee their patients’ progress without exposing them to the risks, expense, and inconvenience of in-person visits. This technology has shifted the playing field, providing better care and improving outcomes.
Using RPM in Post-Acute Care and Rehabilitation Settings
Remote monitoring technology has a wide range of applications in post-acute care and rehabilitation settings. Frequent applications include:
1. Monitoring Vital Signs
Tracking vital signs is one of the most common ways providers use remote monitoring technology in post-acute care and rehabilitation. With wearable sensors and other smart devices, clinicians can now remotely track patients’ heart rates, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and more. This allows them to identify and address any changes in vital signs before complications arise.
2. Tracking Medication Adherence
Medication non-adherence is problematic in post-acute care and rehabilitation, with a search of medical literature showing around 50% of patients don’t take their medication as prescribed. Patients recovering from an illness or injury often need to take multiple medications and follow complex dosage instructions. Health monitoring devices remind them how and when to take their medicines and allow providers to monitor their adherence to treatment plans.
3. Observing Activity Levels
Patients recovering from an illness or injury often need to increase physical activity gradually. Remote patient monitoring devices such as activity trackers allow post-acute patients to register and record their physical activity levels and manage their progress over time.
4. Overseeing Wound Healing
Patients who have undergone surgery or have wounds that require ongoing monitoring also use wearable sensors or other tracking devices to record the progress of their wound healing. Healthcare professionals check indicators like vital signs to determine whether a wound is healing as expected and intervene if necessary.
RPM Implementation Challenges
While remote patient monitoring offers benefits in post-acute care and rehabilitation settings, healthcare providers face numerous challenges in implementing the technology. These include technical difficulties, privacy or security concerns, and staff training issues. Clearing the runway of these hurdles is complex and time-consuming, and often requires significant investment in infrastructure and resources.
Technical challenges: For patients and providers to embrace RPM, the devices and software must be reliable, secure, and easy to use. Programs must integrate with existing healthcare systems, and patients and providers require access to high-quality internet and mobile networks to transmit their data quickly and accurately.
Privacy and security concerns: These issues are a constant challenge in the modern digital world, with healthcare data proving particularly vulnerable to hacking and identity theft. According to HIPAA’s privacy rules, patients must be informed of data collection practices and be able to opt out if they wish. Patients’ personal and health-related data requires robust protection from unauthorized access or breaches.
Staff training and acceptance: Healthcare providers must train their staff to use remote health monitoring devices and RPM software effectively and integrate it into their daily workflows. Moreover, providers must be willing to adopt new technology and embrace change, which can be challenging in some circumstances.
Benefits of RPM for Post-Acute Care and Rehabilitation
Remote monitoring technology delivers multiple benefits in post-acute care and rehabilitation settings. Key advantages of using this technology in these settings include:
Improved Patient Outcomes
Remote monitoring technology offers the significant advantage of improved patient outcomes. By monitoring their patients’ health and wellness consistently, physicians quickly detect changes in health status and intervene before complications arise. This leads to faster recovery times, fewer hospital readmissions, and better outcomes.
Increased Patient Engagement
RPM technology also increases patients’ engagement in their care. People who are highly involved in their therapy tend to see better results because they are more likely to follow treatment plans and take an active role in their recovery. Remote patient monitoring allows patients to monitor their own health and wellness, giving them a sense of control over their situation and helping them stay motivated during recovery.
Reduced Healthcare Costs
Healthcare costs are teetering at the edge of US$5 trillion for 2022, according to the American Medical Association. Detecting potential problems early through RPM prevents hospital readmissions and emergency room visits. Additionally, remote monitoring technology unlocks even more value by helping to reduce the length of hospital stays, leading to further cost savings.
Better Data Tracking and Analysis
Remote medical monitoring also allows for better tracking and analysis of patient data. By collecting and analyzing patient health and wellness information, healthcare providers gain valuable insights into their condition and use it to guide treatment plans. This supports more personalized and effective care, and faster recovery for patients.
Making the Case(s) for RPM
Remote monitoring technology has proven effective in a wide range of post-acute care and rehabilitation settings. In a study published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, patients were given a tablet computer and a wearable sensor, which they used to track their daily activity levels and receive reminders to complete their rehabilitation exercises. Clinicians monitored their progress remotely and provided feedback and support as needed. The research showed patients who used RPM for rehabilitation had better functional independence and quality of life scores than those who did not.
Results of a study published in the Journal of Arthroplasty showed patients recovering from hip and knee replacement surgery were given a wearable sensor to track daily activity levels. RPM technology issued reminders for them to complete their rehabilitation exercises. Again, clinicians monitored their progress remotely, providing feedback and support as needed. The results indicated that patients who used the remote health monitoring devices had less pain, better function, and improved range of motion than the control group.
How to Use RPM for Post-Acute Care: Best Practices in Deployment
For RPM to live up to its promise to transform post-acute care and rehabilitation, it’s critical to deploy the technology correctly. Best practices for implementing remote monitoring include:
- Developing Clear Goals and Objectives for using the technology. Before implementation, work with staff and patients to identify specific outcomes, such as reducing hospital readmissions or improving patient outcomes. Communicate these goals and objectives to all stakeholders, including patients, staff, and administrators, to ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Choosing the Right Technology is critical to the success of RPM in post-acute care and rehabilitation settings. Evaluate the different options available and select a technology that is reliable, secure, and easy to use. Ensure the chosen technology integrates with the existing healthcare systems and meets all regulatory requirements.
- Involve Patients in the Process by informing them of the benefits of remote monitoring and allowing them to participate. Educate patients on using the technology and provide ongoing support and feedback to ensure they remain involved.
- Train Staff Effectively to ensure they know how to use and integrate the technology into their daily workflows. Provide teams with ongoing support and feedback to keep them engaged with the process.
- Address Privacy and Security Concerns by implementing the necessary security protocols to protect patient data. Inform the patients how their data is collected, stored, and used. Ensure the technology meets regulatory requirements related to patient data privacy and security.
Following these practices enables healthcare organizations to leverage the power of remote monitoring technology, improve outcomes, and drive practice revenue.
Revolutionizing Post-Acute Care and Rehabilitation
Remote monitoring technology has the potential to revolutionize post-acute care and rehabilitation and defray healthcare costs. Despite the challenges, providers benefit from implementing RPM technology correctly and taking the proper steps to leverage it. By partnering with a professional RPM clinical services vendor, your organization can kick poor outcomes to the curb and provide patients with superior healthcare, all while optimizing your practice’s operations.