Remote Patient Monitoring
Keeping eyes on patients at a distance
by Tiffany Horn

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) programs are leading the charge to leverage mobile technology and portable digital devices to successfully monitor patients outside of the hospital. At first glance, remote patient monitoring programs offer an inventive, innovative solution to reduce hospital admissions and overall health care costs; however, the role clinicians play by assessing and evaluating patient data to increase patient engagement is essential to yielding better health care outcomes.       

Discovering Opportunities to Improve Patient Engagement

According to a 2015 paper by Faith  Birnbaum et al., patient engagement is a term that describes enhancing a patient’s ability to fully participate in their own care by equipping them with extensive knowledge and support, resulting in better health outcomes. Patient engagement plays an integral role in health care simply because the more that patients know about their respective diagnoses and condition, the better equipped they are to make the changes needed or recommended to improve their health or to slow the progression of disease.

Remote patient monitoring, along with the use of digital devices, is progressively marketed as a method to facilitate patient engagement. Digital devices can effectively help a patient self-monitor, which improves the patient’s understanding of their health because of the dynamic exchanges between the clinician and the patient. The clinical data obtained from a remote patient monitoring program gives clinicians the opportunity to encourage patients to change their behaviors—all while empowering patients to take ownership of their health care journey.

Effective Use of Clinical Support & Data-Driven Coaching

While many patients can implement positive changes while under a doctor’s care or in the hospital, they fail to maintain their health care plans once they return to their home environment. Remote patient monitoring programs give patients the opportunity to stay engaged and offer them a regular pathway to obtain consistent, quality health guidance. The use of digital devices provides patients with an overview of their health, while the relationship with their clinician provides patients with the guidance to better understand how the data impacts their specific diagnoses.

RPM-driven encounters give clinicians the opportunity to provide education about the proper usage of digital devices to collect patient data. Patients need to not just understand what the data collected implies about their health; they also need to understand how to properly use their digital devices, since the data will be used to make decisions for and about their ongoing health care. By focusing on patient engagement, clinicians can positively impact how patients view their situation while also providing the means to help patients actively improve their health.

Remote patient monitoring programs give clinicians the opportunity to provide clinical oversight to high-risk or compromised patients, especially those patients who transition from hospital to home. By empowering and supporting patients in disease self-management, clinicians can help patients gain a better understanding of their disease, prognosis and treatment plans. RPM programs provide a pathway for clinicians to focus on improving patient engagement in between doctor’s visits, treatment procedures and hospitalizations. It has been proven that patients who are actively involved in their own health care are more likely to adhere to treatment regimens which decreases hospitalizations—especially readmissions—and improves their overall quality of life.

Clinicians can easily review patient data, then use the clinical data to provide specific clinical guidance. If patients are noncompliant, clinicians will be alerted and have an opportunity to take the appropriate action by collaborating with the patient to change undesirable behaviors. The goal is to better understand why the patient is not following the proper steps, as well as to pinpoint any barriers that may be influencing compliance.

By building and maintaining a healthy relationship with the patient, the clinician can proactively address concerns as well as provide education about the importance of collecting the necessary data to improve outcomes. Ultimately, having an easy-to-use pathway to remain connected to patients between their in-office visits allows clinicians to educate and empower patients to adhere to their agreed-upon treatment regimen, thus improving patient engagement and eventually yielding better patient outcomes.

Understanding RPM Programs

Many RPM programs use Bluetooth-connected devices such as blood pressure devices, blood glucose meters, scales and spirometers to collect patient data in the home, which is then relayed to the care provider and uploaded to a web-based clinical dashboard.

Althought the relationship between health care and technology has evolved over the last couple of decades, it is apparent there is still an opportunity for the health care industry to improve health care delivery and outcomes with the use of digital health devices. The use of digital devices adds great value to care delivery by providing the necessary data for clinicians to use as a part of their efforts to connect with patients about their health.

Many high-risk patients participate in remote patient monitoring programs with the hope of improving one or more of their diagnoses; however, clinicians can use this as an opportunity to meaningfully improve the overall health and wellness of patients in a managed population. Reviewing vital signs and care plans and addressing noncompliance alerts offer up entry points for skillful clinicians to discuss other critical aspects, such as: improving exchanges between clinicians and patients to improve communication; educating patients about how to successfully navigate the health care system; using clinical data to collaborate with patients to lessen symptomology and disease progression; and helping patients engage in their own health while showing them the importance of daily self-management.

A solid remote patient monitoring program should go beyond just obtaining a blood pressure or blood glucose reading to provide clinical data. Remote patient monitoring should allow clinicians to sustain healthy relationships with patients with the goal of improving patient engagement and outcomes while reducing health care costs. In these trying times, it is even more apparent that health care organizations must reframe their care model and their approaches to care to better serve their patients and achieve positive outcomes. Although there are many ways to accomplish this goal, remote patient monitoring programs have proven to be an effective way for clinicians to simply do what they do best—improve the lives of their patients.

Tiffany Horn, RN, BSN, MS-L, Ed.D. candidate, LSSYB, is Clear Arch Health’s clinical services manager. An experienced health care consulting professional with extensive experience in the development and implementation of innovative health care strategies and projects, she has worked in various areas in the health care industry leading projects focused on implementing policies and procedures to improve care delivery. Her specialties include clinical consultation, patient advocacy, nursing and nursing leadership and change management skills. She holds a B.S. in nursing from University of Phoenix and an M.S. in organizational leadership from Grand Canyon University.