Telehealth has been around nearly as long as online social media applications. While it has not always been widespread in usage, the pandemic has led many Americans to try it out. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, telehealth visits increased by over 150% from March 2019 to March 2020.
This will only continue to grow as 35% of Americans have said they would consider permanently replacing in-person visits with on-demand online healthcare. Whether one sees this change as positive or not, telehealth has allowed nurses to conduct patient monitoring remotely. Thanks to latest nursing trends and technologies such as remote patient monitoring, nurses can provide more accessible and safer help to chronically-ill patients while gaining access to essential patient data faster.
Doing so allows them to speed up diagnoses and facilitate timely treatment plan changes. If that’s not good enough, remote patient monitoring also creates a system wherein everyone is more accountable and engaged with their health. When engaged, patients can embrace recommendations and help nurses become more effective.
What is remote patient monitoring in telehealth?
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a component of telehealth that empowers patients to use mobile medical technology to collect patient-generated health data and send it to nurses and other healthcare professionals. RPM enables providers to continue monitoring healthcare information for patients once they are discharged. Healthcare professionals can use RPM to engage in more one-on-one patient interactions and offer personalized care.
How does remote patient monitoring work?
RPM technologies have evolved over the past decade, but the steps involved remain the same.
Health information gathering
Setting up an RPM system begins with activating the patient health tracking device. These healthcare technologies often have a Bluetooth feature that communicates with the patient’s mobile app and collects information from the device. Depending on the device, it can gather numerous sets of data such as heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels.
Medical data transmission
Once the health information has been registered by the RPM device and sent to the assigned mobile application, it must be transmitted to the healthcare provider. There has been a dramatic improvement in the preciseness of the medical information gathered and the efficiency with which this data can be distributed to the assigned provider.
Health information assessment and notification
The information gathered from the patient’s RPM device is subsequently stored in the cloud or the medical institution’s data repository. This information on vital signs is then manually or automatically compared to the lower and upper values established by the physician. If the set value is breached, the RPM system triggers a warning message and alerts a physician about an abnormal situation. Many RPM technologies are geared with an analytics feature that uses data visualization tools to provide users with real-time information. Healthcare providers can use these tools to visualize healthcare trends and patterns to predict risky events and outcomes and make educated decisions on the best possible treatment.
Once the alert has been triggered, the RPM system will inform the attending healthcare professional on whether to send an alert to emergency responders. If the health information displays that a patient needs immediate healthcare attention, the relevant authorities are alerted, and assistance is provided. However, if the information only shows a treatment change is needed, the nurse practitioner can decide and communicate this to the patient through email, phone, or in-app alerts. The nurse practitioner can also advise on preventing similar adverse events from occurring again.
Benefits of remote patient monitoring
As mentioned, RPM technologies are growing in popularity in healthcare circles, and for good reason. There are significant and wide-ranging advantages to adopting RPM technologies into healthcare processes.
It improves healthcare collaboration
Coordinating care between multiple healthcare team members is no longer an option as medical delivery has become more interconnected. With proper collaboration, healthcare teams can bridge communication gaps, reduce readmission rates, and advocate for patient-centered care. RPM can enhance coordination between healthcare teams by allowing members to share patient information quickly and communicate with each other in real time. For instance, if a patient is treated by a primary care doctor and a specialist, RPM can facilitate communication and coordination between the two providers. This helps avoid test and treatment duplications and ensures a consistent and effective patient care plan.
It reduces the risks of medical errors
Do you know that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States? If that’s not bad enough, a recent study reveals medical errors cost roughly $20 billion annually. RPM technologies allow physicians, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare professionals to monitor and treat their patients remotely. This ultimately reduces errors and the risk of data loss or corruption. Simply put, the patient’s information can be stored safely in the health system rather than tucked on paper charts or hard drives.
It enhances patient engagement
The importance of patient engagement in ensuring high-quality medical care is too hard to ignore. Recent data shows roughly 42% of patients are more inclined to follow treatment plans if they are involved in the decision making. A separate study added that patient engagement can reduce hospital readmissions by 14%. RPM technologies foster engagement among patients as it helps them monitor their health data. Doing so can empower patients to become more active toward their health. Such cooperation will make it easier for physicians and nurse practitioners to create a comprehensive and effective treatment plan to deliver positive patient outcomes.
It improves patient safety
Investing in patient safety impacts health outcomes positively, minimizes costs, and enhances operational efficiency. RPM technologies help nurse practitioners and doctors improve patient safety by continuously monitoring their client’s health. This allows them to determine potential issues early on and provide timely interventions. Moreover, it prevents more invasive procedures or hospitalizations, reducing the risk of complications and adverse events. Since RPM provides real-time data and notifications, healthcare providers can respond quickly to changes in a patient’s condition and take appropriate action to prevent any sudden decline in their vital signs.
What are the applications of remote patient monitoring?
RPM technologies have various uses and applications. Understanding its applications empowers healthcare providers to maximize the RPM’s performance and capabilities to deliver positive patient outcomes.
RPM systems are functional within cardiology, particularly when taking blood pressure. Counting that patients suffering from hypertension are sometimes asymptomatic, measuring the blood pressure is the only way to determine whether they are experiencing high blood pressure. With remote blood pressure monitors, nurse practitioners and doctors can monitor and treat high blood pressure online.
Moreover, RPM ensures accurate blood pressure readings because of “white-coat hypertension.” False results often happen because blood pressure readings can be higher when patients are under stress from meeting with a healthcare professional. With RPM, the patient must place a cuff on their arm and switch on the accompanying tracking device that measures and transmits blood pressure data – all without the presence of a “white coat.”
With this simple data, cardiologists receive the information they need to advise patients about changes in their lives, including exercise, diet, medications, alcohol and caffeine consumption, and smoking. Patients with high blood pressure usually take one or more medications, and treatment can undergo multiple changes to achieve desired goals. So, practitioners must have timely and accurate data on hypertension to ensure safe and appropriate adjustments. With RPM systems, cardiologists can ensure patients will continue delivering such essential information and adjust treatment accordingly.
Obesity is a pressing issue in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US obesity prevalence was 41.9% between 2017 and 2020. Separate data adds nearly five million Americans live with congestive heart failure. What makes this worse is heart failure is responsible for 11 million hospital visits annually.
A steady or rapid weight gain daily means a patient’s body stores fluids. Such weight gain and fluid storage can be missed easily if not monitored regularly. RPM systems enable daily remote weight monitoring. This way, healthcare professionals can receive notifications when cardiac decompensation happens. Doing so promotes quick action to improve the patient’s condition and reduce hospitalization rates.
Ongoing remote monitoring of a patient’s obesity also allows healthcare professionals to provide better and more personalized advice for changes that can stabilize or decrease weight. Conversely, if unexpected and rapid weight loss happens, RPM systems can identify it quickly. This allows nurse practitioners and physicians to reduce the risks of sudden weight loss, such as fatigue, dehydration, a compromised immune system, or weakened bones.
Blood glucose monitoring
Tracking blood glucose can spell life or death for people with diabetes. This is especially true since patients do not often use particular systems associated with diabetes until they experience hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. Unlike other diseases, diabetes is chronic and incurable. However, several ways to reduce its impact on a patient’s health include positive diet changes, weight loss, and an active lifestyle.
One way to manage diabetes and prevent further complications is blood sugar testing. With blood sugar testing, you can determine whether your blood sugar levels are low or high, evaluate the effects of diet changes and exercises, and monitor progress toward treatment objectives. For individuals with diabetes, blood sugar testing is done more than once daily.
Thanks to RPM systems with a blood glucose meter, they can test their blood sugar and send data to their endocrinologists. This makes it easier for patients to improve diabetes management and treatment decisions since RPM systems can provide a more straightforward picture of their blood sugar levels and movements. It can also provide physicians and practitioners with insights they can use to guide recommendations concerning medications and lifestyles.
How to implement RPM in healthcare processes
Successful RPM implementation can improve patient health outcomes and provide a new revenue stream for healthcare institutions. With the constant demand for remote technology to deliver healthcare, medical institutions must learn to implement RPM in their processes for workplace productivity and efficiency.
Define goals and objectives
You may be wondering, can nurses do telehealth? The answer is a resounding yes, as long as they have graduated from a leading academic institution such as Elmhurst University. Although undertaking extensive qualifications can seem challenging, a dedicated team of professionals will always be on hand to support you and help you develop your practice if you chose to study further, and many opportunities for promotion and more varied work with become available once you do so.
Additionally, these nurses should first define why they are implementing RPM in their existing processes. For a program to be successful, you must understand why you are starting and what you hope to accomplish. This can be resolving an existing problem such as high readmission rates or adding a new revenue stream. Once you have identified the need, you can prioritize resources easily by concentrating the program around that need. You must also establish your goals and objectives to get buy-in from key stakeholders and provide long-term stability over the program.
Establish a team
You will want to engage the right individuals to ensure a successful RPM program implementation. The reality is implementing RPM is a significant task that impacts every operational function. Not having a team of professionals who can give their opinions will make the implementation process more difficult. While there are no hard and fast rules when establishing your team, you must include all key stakeholders, such as office administrators, the owner, and clinical staff such as nurses and physicians. This way, you can ensure that you do not miss critical concerns of other departments for seamless adoption.
Lease or buy
Leasing or buying RPM devices is one of the most critical decisions when a practice implements patient monitoring remotely. The decision will significantly depend on what makes the most sense for your operations. While leasing offers lower upfront costs, owning an RPM device is cheaper overall since you can avoid long-term contracts that come with the latter. Either way, consider the size of your practice, budget, and program goals before deciding.
Train patients and clinicians
Most RPM systems require significant engagement from patients. So, you must ensure patients are prepared adequately to use the system. When training patients, you can concentrate on establishing expectations, answering any questions, and highlighting program objectives. But when training clinicians, you must focus on device usage and developing proper training materials for more straightforward app navigation.
Embracing RPM for effective healthcare
Technology usage in healthcare is constantly developing. By embracing RPM technologies, healthcare professionals can serve their patients with increasing efficiency and effectiveness while eliminating manual routine procedures and costly medical errors.