- New research from a Washington, DC-based think tank suggests that remote patient monitoring will soon become a standard of care, as health systems use telehealth and mHealth to better manage a growing chronic care population and reduce costs.
The research, from the eHealth Institute and digital health company Validic, finds that healthcare providers are turning to connected care platforms as a necessity rather than a luxury. They’re struggling with skyrocketing costs, increasing patient demand for better access to care and a population that’s aging and developing chronic conditions that require round-the-clock care.
“The idea of using data from wearables and remote monitoring devices to improve care is no longer just wishful thinking,” eHI CEO Jennifer Covich Bordenick said in a press release accompanying the report. “This report shares actual examples of how providers are improving access to care through remote patient monitoring and saving money.”
Healthcare has been slow to embrace RPM programs because of limited reimbursement and a general reluctance to put faith in mobile health devices used in the home, where generated health data might not be reliable enough for clinical care. But with the advent of clinical-grade mHealth technology, positive results from studies using consumer-facing wearables and more interest on the federal level in reimbursing providers who use the technology, the concept is gaining momentum, with some two-thirds of the nation’s health systems taking active steps to use RPM.
The eHI report, “The Return on Investment of Patient-Generated Health Data & Remote Patient Monitoring,” finds that hospitals and health systems are finding better value in health data collected from the home than they are in traditional office or hospital visits.
“In contrast to traditional care that requires costly in-person visits and patients bringing their data into the clinic via spreadsheets, notebooks, or disparate apps, remote monitoring programs passively and continuously collect and transmit patient-generated health data (PGHD) from in-home medical devices to providers and care teams,” the report notes. “PGHD, when compared to health data collected exclusively during in-person doctor’s visits, more accurately and holistically reflects lifestyle choices, health history, symptoms, medication, treatment information, and biometric data such as heart rate, blood glucose, blood pressure, temperature, oxygen levels, and weight.”
Getting that data, however, is still challenging.
“The use of PGHD presents an opportunity for providers to gain deeper insights in real-time about their patients, offering the ability for quicker response to health issues, and ultimately, better outcomes and lower costs,” the report states. “However, this data is oftentimes unreachable within the clinical workflow. For PGHD to reach its true potential, actionable information gleaned from the data must be presented via an interface that allows both patients and providers to easily share, view, and act upon the insights.”
“There are tools currently available that identify data trends, elevate critical data points, and help aggregate, summarize, and visualize PGHD in meaningful ways,” it continues. “Investing resources in these tools makes PGHD useful at the point of care, while encouraging health professionals to embrace the available data and utilize these tools to further benefit their patients.”
eHI and Validic argue that providers will invest in RPM programs in the future because of a few telling statistics.
Chronic conditions now account for the most deaths in the nation and take up more than 85 percent of annual healthcare expenditures, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A report from the Rand Corporation, meanwhile, finds that 60 percent of the nation’s adults has at least one chronic condition, and 42 percent have more than one.
“Patients with chronic conditions face worse health outcomes, have higher hospital readmission rates, and generally incur higher healthcare expenses,” the report notes. “This means that such patients will require more complex, comprehensive, and regular care in order to maintain or improve their health – at a cost to both patients and the healthcare system.”
Connected health technology, the report states, has the potential to solve those problems by extending care into the home, boosting outcomes through continuous monitoring and care management while reducing costs (in such areas as reduced hospitalizations).
“As all indicators suggest that remote monitoring will develop into a new standard of care in the near future, providers are likely considering the most effective way to deploy such programs to improve the patient experience and outcomes while cutting costs,” the report continues. “Supporting this shift, the growing role of consumers in healthcare, in conjunction with more readily available and affordable patient monitoring devices, has increased digital access to care and enabled health systems to more easily collect and manage PGHD. As wireless networks race to roll out fifth-generation (5G) broadband service, which promises faster speeds and more bandwidth for data usage, the connectivity necessary to support remote monitoring programs will continue to improve. By the end of the decade, 5G is expected to support 50 billion devices and 212 billion sensors worldwide.”
Along with better clinical outcomes, improved patient engagement and more opportunities for cost savings and reimbursement, the report indicates healthcare providers will see an “operational ROI” in RPM programs.
This is measured in reduced stress on providers (many of whom are facing burnout), better patient-to-physician rations, improved workloads that allow clinicians to spend more time with patients who need their attention, better population health insights and a reduction in potential liability for providers.
“What may be a competitive differentiator today is positioned to be table stakes over the coming decade,” the report concludes. “It was a decade ago that less than half of providers had adopted an EHR; today, over 90 percent of providers have implemented and utilize an EHR in everyday care. Taking advantage of new reimbursement models and emerging technologies will continue to push innovation forward, offering providers new opportunities to improve outcomes, efficiencies, and costs in the management of chronic conditions.”