The COVID-19 outbreak has created uncertainty in all aspects of our lives – work, family, social activity, and certainly healthcare. The contagious nature of the virus has resulted in strict distancing measures and stay-at-home orders, and even as some of those restrictions are being loosened, it’s going to take time before most people are completely comfortable returning to their normal routines.
Confronting New Healthcare Challenges
For healthcare providers, it’s been a dual challenge. They have patients who require ongoing care for their existing conditions and other “normal” healthcare needs. At the same time, they have to manage a highly contagious virus. It’s a tailor-made case for connected health, which has allowed many providers to continue treating patients safely, and others to fight the coronavirus battle on the front lines more efficiently.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) isn’t new – it’s been available to treat patients of all ages with many conditions for some time. But, at a time when patients and physicians are both wary of contracting the novel coronavirus disease, RPM has emerged as an opportunity to address the challenges of delivering real-time care without putting patients or physicians at greater risk.
Easing of Restrictions
Government agencies moved quickly to ease some of the restrictions that have stunted the growth of connected health, to enable providers to more effectively address patient needs through telehealth visits. In addition, the FDA issued a temporary policy that would allow certain FDA-cleared remote monitoring devices to be used at greater scale, allowing providers to expand their RPM capabilities.
Non-invasive devices, like those that measure body temperature, respiratory rate, heart rate, and blood pressure, can help physicians treat both COVID-19 patients and others. In fact, CMS amended its rules around to allow RPM to be used to treat patients with acute or chronic conditions, stating, “We believe that RPM services support the CDC’s goal of reducing human exposure to the novel coronavirus while also increasing access to care and improving patient outcomes.”
Benefits for Both Patients and Providers
Using RPM to treat both COVID-19 and other patients offers several potential benefits to healthcare providers as well as patients, including:
- Patients can receive timely, effective care from the comfort of their homes.
- Physicians can receive ongoing reporting on patients’ health to monitor their progress.
- Providers can maintain or even increase patient engagement.
- Reducing anxiety for patients and their families through ongoing care at home.
- Easing the burden on medical facilities, reserving hospital beds for those in need of direct care.
- Minimizing the risk of COVID-19 patients spreading the virus to other patients, medical professionals, or others in the community.
- Reducing the risk of non-coronavirus patients contracting the virus through travel to physicians’ offices.
- If conditions worsen, requiring hospitalization, hospital staff can receive notice and prepare accordingly to expedite arrival processes and reduce risk.
- Helping flatten the coronavirus curve.
- Maintaining provider revenue streams during the outbreak (and increasing revenue opportunities during normal conditions).
- Creating a flow of data that can be anonymized for research on COVID-19 and other conditions.
Whether patients are suffering from COVID-19, chronic diseases, or other conditions, combined with virtual visits via phone or video conference, RPM can allow physicians to treat them effectively. With connected devices, patients’ vital signs are sent directly to providers, making it easy to physicians to review results. Non-connected devices can also be used to a similar, where patients log their results and enter them into a patient portal. Even patients without access to portals or connected devices can benefit by keeping logs of their measurements and reading them to their physicians during scheduled telehealth visits.
Connected health solutions let healthcare providers monitor patient symptoms and track progress and response to treatment and communicate with them about their conditions and care remotely. While the recent expansion of RPM rules is limited to the pandemic period the increased use of connected health during this crisis can prove its value pave the way for broader changes and implementation on a regular basis – ultimately helping eliminate some of the inefficiencies that have plagued the healthcare system for years.
*The information contained in this blog is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace discussions with a physician or other healthcare provider or your legal counsel.