December 20, 2021
6 Keys to Developing a Remote Patient Monitoring Strategy
Healthcare organizations that embrace strategic planning will set themselves up for success with one of the most important emerging technologies in the sector.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare providers raced to deploy basic telehealth functions like video visits; as we enter the pandemic’s third year, such visits are now commonplace. Healthcare organizations also implemented remote patient monitoring (RPM) during this period, but not nearly to the same extent. A survey released earlier this year found that only 1 in 5 healthcare providers said they had already adopted RPM.
In my view, RPM is poised to become perhaps the most impactful emerging healthcare technology of the coming decade. But to be successful, healthcare organizations must be strategic in how they think about and implement these solutions.
Here are six considerations that clinical, business and IT leaders should keep in mind when developing and implementing an RPM strategy.
1. Overall Strategic Vision
As with any new major initiative, organizations should start by considering their overall strategy. For instance, a hospital might choose one route for implementing RPM to support the strategic pillar of expanding access to care for patients in remote areas; another organization might take a different approach to support value-based care. Often, these strategic initiatives will overlap, and a single set of RPM technologies and practices will touch on more than one. Still, it is important to start with overall strategy before getting into specifics about use cases and technology tools.
2. Patient Population
Next, leaders should consider which patients will benefit from RPM in ways that support the overall strategy. It often makes sense to begin by supporting patient populations that have already been shown to benefit from RPM. In particular, many healthcare organizations have had success using RPM to support patients with congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes. For these patients, RPM solutions have been shown to reduce hospital admissions and prevent the need for the costliest interventions — both of which are outcomes that support many organizations’ larger strategic goals. In all cases, organizations should consider environmental and digital disparity factors that could impact patient adherence to the program.
3. Insourcing vs. Outsourcing
When implementing an RPM program, organizations must decide whether to build out an internal monitoring team or to outsource this work. Each option comes with its own advantages and drawbacks, so leaders should focus on their strategic priorities when making this decision. This doesn’t have to be a final decision. Often, RPM vendors offer clinical monitoring services as an add-on component to their solutions. Organizations can layer this service to build scale for a program or to supplement monitoring for difficult shifts to fill or to help address staff shortages.
Healthcare organizations have numerous options when choosing a vendor. The first priority should be to choose technologies that align with anticipated use cases. Often, an RPM kit will include peripherals such as a connected blood pressure cuff and weight scale, along with a tablet to collect and transmit patient data. When choosing a technology vendor, organizations should look to solutions that integrate well not only with electronic health records but also with other enterprise digital health tools deployed through the organization.
It’s important to spend sufficient time and energy answering the basic “who” and “how” questions around operational support for RPM programs. These may include:
- Will the process be based on acute discharge procedures or initiated within the ambulatory service lines?
- How will enrollment fit into existing clinical workflows?
- What opportunities are there to automate this process?
- Who will educate the patient on the technology and care plans?
- Who will set up the technology within a patient’s home?
- Who will be responsible for monitoring these new streams of data and how will this monitoring be conducted?
- What communication pathways will be used when escalations of care are required?
- Given the business model used by an organization, how will the organization account for revenue or cost savings associated with the deployment of the program?
- How will financial data flow between the monitoring platform and the revenue cycle system?
6. Continuous Innovation
RPM is an evolving technology. In the coming years, the healthcare sector will find practical ways to incorporate data from consumer-grade wearable devices — a move that, along with wider adoption of AI and autonomous monitoring capability, could expand RPM programs to much larger patient populations. Such a development would likely spark hesitancy from clinicians, who would have important questions about the accuracy of this data, as well as responsibility for managing it. Still, it’s crucial to keep an eye on how this space is developing and adjust over time.
By laying a solid strategic foundation and then responding to new developments, healthcare organizations can ensure that they are fulfilling their own strategic goals and meeting their patients’ needs.
Story by Elliott Wilson, who has spent his career in nonprofit healthcare provider systems. He has built an extensive background forming and translating digital strategies that combine with on-the-ground clinical operational realities.