Many years ago, after MobileHelp launched the beta test of a new remote patient monitoring (RPM) solution that added personal emergency response system (PERS) functionality to the mix, a remarkable thing happened: It worked exactly the way it was supposed to.
A congestive heart failure patient in the beta test noticed her blood pressure numbers were trending upward. After waking up on the third day to yet another higher reading, she also noticed she wasn’t feeling well. She pushed the “HELP” button on her RPM device and was soon explaining to an emergency operator that she needed emergency assistance.
When the emergency medical technicians arrived on the scene, she explained how she was feeling and that her blood pressure numbers were trending upwards. As a result, they immediately knew how to treat her, rather than having to go through the sometimes lengthy triage process to diagnose the problem—and they were able to address her situation with exactly the right level of care.
It was a watershed moment for the company. Giving chronic care patients access to both vital signs and emergency help represented the type of patient-empowering technology that clients and providers need to ensure that an aging-in-place solution works.
The Pandemic’s Impact on Virtual Care Technology
Although analysis of the pandemic’s impact on the health care space is starting to feel ubiquitous, there’s a reason it continues. It was an industry in which even casual observers could see the coalescing of an almost-perfect storm play out in real time. That is, health care providers were trying to keep older, non-COVID-19 patients out of brick-and-mortar health care spaces, and older non-COVID-19 patients were trying to stay away from community settings.
This was the catalyst for patients and providers to embrace digital technologies like never before. The terms “telehealth” and “virtual care” entered the common lexicon, and RPM solutions and PERS were used to a much higher degree to monitor the health of older adults aging in place.
And while at this point it feels speculative to make assumptions about the degree of appetite for these kinds of technologies in a post-pandemic world, there are strong indicators that both RPM and PERS—and specifically the combination of the two—are here to stay.
Connecting Patients to Providers
For patients in need of chronic care, or older adults aging in place, regular access to health care providers is essential. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 42% of adults in the United States postponed medical treatment during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The expansion of telehealth services provided safe and convenient health care options for high-risk individuals concerned about contracting the virus, yet still in need of regular care.
This option to pursue remote health care solutions offered protection to patients and health care providers and prevented the unnecessary crowding of health care spaces.
Not only did the expansion of telehealth provide much-needed care to those in isolation, it also how much medical care that was previously done entirely in person could be accomplished remotely. According to the CDC, 69% of patients who used telehealth early in the pandemic were able to receive care at home and did not require further in-person treatment.
In addition, patients were overall very satisfied with their remote care experience. A recent survey found that around 90% of responding telehealth patients reported being likely to forgo an in-person appointment in favor of telehealth again.
This all adds up to the idea that RPM could continue to increase health care efficiency post-pandemic by providing satisfactory care without in-person contact. But the addition of PERS to this solution is crucial to that shift.
RPM + PERS = More Than the Sum of Their Parts
RPM solutions offer the potential for early prevention of emergencies through the regular tracking of patient vitals, while the use of PERS allows patients to quickly seek help if an emergency should arise.
Bringing RPM and PERS together provides a double safety net that is beneficial to both patients and providers when it comes to safeguarding against the avoidable escalation of medical problems.
Benefits to Providers
Even before COVID-19, providers knew that telehealth was a cost-effective and comprehensive method of providing care for chronic care patients and older adults aging in place, delivering solid return on investment (ROI) with the ability to provide early intervention opportunities as well as access to emergency help—both of which save money for patients and the system.
The pandemic accelerated the acceptance and adoption of RPM and PERS solutions among health care providers and patients. The recent reimbursement of remote care by Medicare and the temporary expansion of reimbursement during the pandemic indicates the ROI could be exponentially higher on remote monitoring in the future.
In addition, the pandemic emphasized how features such as virtual visits, patient screening surveys and condition-specific education can fill in the gaps of health care provision and streamline the process.
Not only do telehealth services free up much-needed space and time within health care facilities, but data collected through RPM health care solutions also provides a wealth of information to help providers predict and prevent potential problems.
PERS devices offer a second layer of protection, as fall response time drastically impacts recovery for patients. Much like older adults aging in place, chronic care patients are often also at a greater risk of falling due to medication errors or additional physical vulnerabilities related to their conditions.
Combining RPM and PERS solutions to support both of these populations decreases risk and cost to providers as well as patients.
Benefits to Patients
For patients managing chronic conditions or aging in place, the increased monitoring and security that this combined solution provides bring greater independence and a better overall understanding of personal health.
Monitoring vitals in between in-person medical visits can capture important data that may otherwise go unnoticed, making peripheral-monitoring devices especially useful for patients with chronic conditions. In this manner, RPM can catch changes early and keep patients out of the hospital.
Older adults an also benefit from PERS solutions, specifically mobile medical alert devices called mobile personal emergency response systems (mPERS). According to a 2018 survey conducted by AARP on home and community health care preferences, 76% of Americans age 50 and older report wanting to remain in their current homes as they age. That percentage has increased to 90% in the wake of the pandemic, according to a recent survey from WebMd and Capital Caring Health.
By leveraging mPERS solutions, chronic care patients and older adults aging in place may retain independence in the home and venture outside the home without fear. Combined with RPM, PERS allows patients to take charge of their own health.
To conclude, the COVID-19 pandemic not only exacerbated the need for remote care, it also uncovered aspects of health care that could be streamlined by permanently incorporating telehealth solutions, even after the pandemic subsides.
With the help of RPM and PERS health care solutions, chronic care patients and the aging-in-place population can acquire greater freedom and knowledge of their own bodies, and medical providers can achieve more efficiency and effectiveness. Along with other virtual care technologies in general, these solutions are here to stay—ushering in a way to care for patients in the future.