Despite healthcare’s notorious aversion to new technology and new modes of operation, there has been a widespread adoption of innovative new technology as facilities become forced to adapt to an infection-conscious world and clientele. Suddenly, tech adoption that used to only be limited to EHRs, medical grade computers, and the occasional piece of authentication hardware has now expanded to complex telehealth systems, chatbot creation, and other programs that were previously thought to be promising, but have now been adopted with gusto. Among these systems that were generally accepted to be filled with potential but held back by uncertainty is the remote monitoring program. 

What is Remote Monitoring in Healthcare?

A remote monitoring program can take several shapes and forms depending on the team involved but, generally, these programs refer to methods of care that involve gathering patient data from outside of the care facility. By gathering information on things like vitals, symptoms, physical activity, and more from patients as they live their day-to-day, nurses and physicians can gain a much more thorough understanding of a few things:

  • What predispositions a patient has to certain health issues.
  • How a patient is responding to treatment
  • How well a patient adhering to their treatment plan

Information on these variables is vital in a time where patient data is invaluable and remote care is even more so. 

Why have Remote Monitoring Programs not Been Adopted Yet?

The benefits of a program such as remote patient monitoring are plain to see, however, in times past there were aversions to these programs just like there were to many other innovative tech-based care programs. Healthcare innovation technology and its adoption have always involved some inherent risks such as loss of efficiency as staff adapts to new, often complex, machinery and software. A remote monitoring program is no different as it too involves quite a few pieces of hardware and software to set up. So why now?

The difference now is that facilities are being forced to adapt to these new methods as their old ones are proving to be just as risky to employ if not more so. Care providers have already started to see the merits in previously ignored programs such as telehealth, many going on to say they couldn’t imagine returning to the old way of caring for patients. Upon finally engaging in these new programs, many facilities have begun to see the benefits in their adoption- Geisinger Health being a perfect example as they begin to experience first-hand the myriad of pros that come with a fleshed out remote monitoring program.

So, with that in mind, what’s needed to take a new remote monitoring program off the ground?

1.) Patient Portal Messaging

Programs like Geisinger’s have seen resounding success in utilizing their patient portals to their fullest potential. By using these portals to message patients, a number of benefits can be derived. Firstly, patients who are tested positive for COVID-19 can remain in constant contact with their physician or nurse despite not being in the facility. This can ensure that patients are constantly reporting their symptoms and giving providers the information they need to adapt care on the fly and triage more effectively. 

Furthermore, having this easy mode of communication can also provide a psychological benefit for patients who are often riddled with stress and anxiety after having been diagnosed with any kind of ailment. Being in contact with a professional who can calm irrational fears can help ground these patients and make them more receptive to treatment plans and recommendations. 

Those interested in opening up this pathway for communication with their patients can turn to apps like Epic’s MyChart. The app is incredibly versatile and easy to implement, simply requiring an app installation for patients and providing a HIPAA certified messaging solution for providers looking to stay in touch remotely.

2.) Care Kits

Speaking with patients and gauging their feelings is truly a helpful endeavor, but there are certain vitals and symptoms that are better off recorded with more certainty. If you plan on implementing a remote patient monitoring program, plan to have a care kit you can administer to patients that are being sent home to self-care and manage symptoms. What’s included in these packages can vary based on the specific ailments and conditions you plan on targeting with this particular remote monitoring program.

Using COVID-19 as an example again, a care package designed to help patients both manage and report symptoms can include:

  • An oximeter for measuring oxygen saturation
  • A thermometer for tracking body temperature and fevers
  • Medication like Acetaminophen for managing those fevers

The key here is that each part of the care kit is curated with the symptoms of the targeted illness/condition in mind. A remote monitoring program with heart failure in mind, for example, can include a scale and a blood pressure cuff. Regardless of the contents of the kit, patients can use the included tools to track symptoms and report to their physician through the patient portal messaging solutions we mentioned earlier with specific readings gathered from trusted tech. 

3.) Video Call Optimized Workstations

Many times, messaging isn’t enough for a patient or physician. There are plenty of times where a patient may forget to input their symptoms for the day or miss a message. In these cases, it’s imperative that a nurse or physician be able to get in contact with a patient through phone or video call. Not only are these means of communication more likely to be answered, they actually make a remote monitoring program more effective. 

When testing a remote patient monitoring program back in 2003, the Center for Connected Health in Boston commented that phone calls were a “powerful stimulus” for patients to comply with symptom monitoring routines. Patients reported that they appreciated feeling as though they were being watched by a team that actually cared for their well-being. By allowing these relationships to form between patient and staff, they were able to see a 50% drop in all-cause readmissions and resoundingly positive effects on patient mortality rates in those who were involved in the program.

Understanding how effective video calling can be for a remote patient monitoring program, investing in workstations that are optimized to make these calls and make them well is a strong step towards an effective monitoring infrastructure. Consider more portable devices such as medical tablet computers or a computer on wheels setup that employs a battery powered PC in order to make them more lightweight and maneuverable. This will allow your team to more easily take calls in private rooms and areas where their patients will be more comfortable sharing personal information, symptoms, and emotional concerns. Naturally, you’ll also want to ensure these devices are IEC60601-1 certified and protected against bacterial infection so as not to jeopardize patients who are being treated within the facility.

A Remote Monitoring Program Requires a Flexible Approach

There may be a bit of overlap in the technology required for many remote monitoring programs, but a large portion of the infrastructure can vary depending on the particular conditions and issues facing your patient population. Creating a remote monitoring program, especially one that’s effective, will require your team to keep an ear to the ground on the conditions and treatments of these particular conditions. From there, it’s only a matter of finding the right hardware. For more information on the type of hardware needed to take a remote monitoring program off the ground, contact an expert from Cybernet’s team today.