A healthy population is the backbone of any nation. If people are healthy, they will be able to work a greater number of hours, provide for themselves and their families, and contribute to the GDP of their country. The outbreak of Covid-19 is enough to prove how detrimental the declining health of the population can prove to be for a country. Therefore, leveraging the technological advancement in the healthcare industry has become an absolute necessity. If people are unhealthy, then shops would close, businesses would shut down and employment opportunities would reduce.
Healthcare solutions need to be constantly invested in; not only in terms of developing advanced and modern medical facilities, but also identifying ways of making these facilities available to a larger group of people. This was particularly realized by governments and authorities during the initial waves of Covid-19 when hospitals were overcrowded with patients; there was a shortage of medical staff and all divisions of a medical centre were working beyond their maximum capacity. Yet, there were many patients who struggled to get admitted or examined, because all the health centres were fully occupied.
The best way to combat such a situation in future would be Remote Patient Monitoring or RPM. Even though RPM is not a new concept, in view of the recent worldwide situation, it has gained popularity and now significant effort is being made towards enhancing its quality.
Remote Patient Monitoring is the process of providing healthcare services outside the boundaries of a physical clinic or hospital. Basically, the use of digital technology is made to receive the patients` data. The data shared by patients is then analyzed by physicians and relevant healthcare solutions are communicated to them via electronic means.
The integration of RPM in a healthcare system benefits both patients as well as the medical practitioners. Patients, especially those requiring chronic care do not need to make frequent visits to the hospital. They literally receive the services at their home or present location-just like home delivery of food and online purchases! Hospitals, on the other hand, can save that space for more critical patients.
If you are wondering, how monitoring of health indicators is possible at home, the answer is that basic devices such as the glucometer, thermometer and blood pressure monitor would have to be purchased by the patient, and their reading and functionality would need to be learned by the caretakers.
Indicators that reflect future growth and improving quality of RPM
- Physician reimbursements
CMS acknowledges the value of time and healthcare advice shared by physicians via remote means. Therefore, in 2018 it allowed the physicians to bill RPM services under a separate head, but in concurrence with CMS`s Chronic Care Management Program, also known as CCM. It is CCM that is responsible for reimbursing physicians for their time spent analyzing the patient data received electronically.
In fact, in 2019 CMS also introduced a fee schedule for remote monitoring of general physiological health indicators of those needing on-going medical care.
Additionally, CCM has also allowed the hospitals to charge them for paying the paramedical staff that help operate the devices or aid the physicians in any manner during RPM.
The acknowledgement and monetary compensation received is likely to motivate the medical staff and consequently result in increased efficiency of the Remote Patient Monitoring process. It is a positive initiative taken by CMS to make RPM a revenue-generating practice for physicians rather than just considering it as an operational support activity.
- Mobile-enabled RPM
Initially hospitals and healthcare workers despised the idea of incorporating Remote Patient Monitoring in their healthcare solutions. Reasons were that they feared the technical requirements, associated costs and the need of hiring additional staff members to operate the RPM softwares.
However, the recent introduction of mobile-enabled RPM (mRPM) sends reminders to the patients for updating their health data on required dates. The data is then shared with the selected viewer(s). Once received by the medical team, they can analyze it to determine what should be the next step. mRPM also includes a user-friendly app that allows the patients to keep a self-check on their health data between doctor appointments. To aid the physicians, it presents a dashboard view that allows easy access to the required information.
The benefits of mRPM are that it does not require any extra investment since almost everyone these days owns a cell phone. Thus, the mobile app can easily be downloaded by both patients and physicians. Apart from saving costs and offering convenience, it also eliminates the requirement to coordinate and schedule a time. In the current times, schedules of doctors are particularly jam-packed. Therefore, agreeing to a time that is suitable for both parties would have been a challenge. However, mRPM eradicates this need by allowing patients to enter data at any time that suits them while also giving physicians the leverage to examine it when they have a free slot. This way neither of the two have to depend on the other`s availability.
- Relevance of data
With the increasing popularity of Remote Patient Monitoring concept, a possible drawback that emerges in one’s mind is the influx of excessive data, thus leading towards data deluge. Data deluge refers to a situation where the amount of data received by an organization exceeds its capacity to handle the data effectively.
However, the likelihood of data deluge via mRPM is relatively low because the relevancy of data received is being monitored by this app. Patients are initially presented with a questionnaire that helps identify the information required with respect to their health problem. Therefore, the quantity of data that a patient inputs is limited and relevant. If anything, it is more organized than the records presented by physically visiting patients who bring with them a plethora of unrelated and unnecessary data.
In view of all the above factors, it can be determined that Remote Patient Monitoring seems to have a bright future with multiple growth opportunities and an acknowledged potential for growth. Even though Remote Patient Monitoring cannot completely replace the need of physically visiting, and getting admitted in a hospital, it can definitely help reduce the burden on healthcare setups while simultaneously ensuring that people who could not be treated in hospital do not miss out on healthcare solutions to their medical problems.