Remote Health Monitoring and Care Management
Healthcare providers are able to remotely manage the health of their patients thanks to advancements in monitoring and communication technologies. Telehealth technology and hospital call centers work together to bring remote care management into the homes of patients.
When the current pandemic began, telemedicine became an even more critical tool to keep both patients and medical staff safe during office visits. As more time passes and COVID-19 continues to infect more people, the need for a long-term solution to remotely monitor patients with chronic conditions has become urgent.
Remote care management programs and hospital call centers are working together to bring much needed care and monitoring to patients. Remote care management can also help to reduce organizational costs, provide patient education, and encourage adherence to treatment which helps reduce readmissions.
Wearable Fitness Technology
Health monitoring devices have traditionally been used within hospitals to track and record vital signs. Nowadays, using FitBits and smartwatches has become commonplace as more people want to take an active role in their health. Research from Business Insider Intelligence found that more than eighty-percent of the consumers they polled were enthusiastic about wearables.
The value of the wearables market is expected to grow to more than $23 billion by 2025. Even though wearable technology can look like nothing more than the latest consumer gadget, doctors are becoming more comfortable with using them as a clinical decision support tool.
As patients become comfortable using wearable health technology and health insurers (including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) are willing to pay for it, hospitals are going remote with their medical monitoring devices. Remote health monitoring has proven to be crucial during the current pandemic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even allowed selected FDA-cleared, non-invasive vital sign-measuring devices to be used remotely so medical staff can monitor patients while they are safe at home.
Monitoring Chronic Health Conditions
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ninety-percent of the $3.5 trillion annual healthcare costs in the United States are attributed to treatment of people with chronic illness.
Patient monitoring devices — such as scales, blood pressure gauges, and medication patches — are given to patients with chronic health conditions to collect biometric data (vital signs, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, electrocardiograms) and securely transmit it via a patient’s smart device back to the provider. Real-time monitoring of health assessment information alerts medical staff to changes in health patterns.
KLAS Research partnered with the American Telemedicine Association in a study about remote patient monitoring, and found hospitals reported additional benefits from their remote patient monitoring program including reduced hospitals admissions, readmissions, and emergency room visits, improved patient satisfaction and health, and organization cost reductions.
Hospital Call Centers Connect Remote Care
While remote patient monitoring helps to prevent hospital and emergency room visits, another goal is to enable patients to better manage their conditions on their own. An app or device can gather a person’s health data, but medical staff are needed to interpret the findings.
Hospital call centers can bring patients and healthcare staff together to provide remote care via telehealth. Some hospitals route data from remote monitors to their call center which is partly staffed by nurses. The nurses are able to use the call center software to securely connect to a patient’s electronic medical record, then call the patient to discuss the findings.
Patient education and medication adherence are also large components of monitoring a patient’s health. Depending on the call center’s nurse staff schedule, remote care can be provided to patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Concerns About Remote Patient Monitoring
While remote patient monitoring is proving to offer many benefits to both patients and healthcare organizations, the technology and adoption of the technology are still new, and there are some important challenges that need to be addressed, such as:
- Big Data – An immense amount of new health data is being provided by patients, which needs to be handled and analyzed. Healthcare organizations have to review and possibly change their healthcare delivery models, begin using tools and AI for analysis and diagnosis, and even develop a legal infrastructure to share patient data for care collaboration.
- Ethics – Wearable technology and mobile apps collects and measures a person’s personal health information, movements, physical activity, moods, behaviors, and more; using devices with a global positioning system (GPS) capabilities that records exact location information. Data can be misinterpreted or misused to draw incorrect conclusions about a person or population.
- Security – Patient confidentiality is a major concern because it can be difficult to ensure a device or application is in compliance with HIPAA regulations. Encryption key management is imperative, however, the nature of biosensors has made designing key management schemes tremendously difficult, and cryptographic schemes depend upon secret keys, so there is a need for highly secure key agreement and distribution in a hospital’s network.
Remote health monitoring and wearable technologies enhance care management by providing detailed health readings about patients to healthcare providers, clinical practices, and to the patients themselves; and enables medical staff to provide care to patients in nearly any location, 24 hours a day.
This technology is still in the early stages and there are challenges, but working to overcome the challenges will drive productive change in care delivery models, forge new partnerships between healthcare and technology providers, and improve health data privacy.