Studies show that remote health management (RHM) reduces hospital admissions, emergency room visits, and readmissions of chronically and acutely ill patients. It is no wonder that remote patient monitoring is becoming more common for health systems to combat the $3.5 trillion annual healthcare costs in the United States attributed to treating chronically ill patients. Although the cost savings are apparent for patient RHM programs, another benefit is empowering patients to effectively manage their illnesses or conditions independently. But deploying these programs for patients doesn’t always mean there will be a high patient engagement outcome. That’s why there are five things hospitals must do when deploying an at-home patient monitoring program.
#1: Develop Goals for What You Want to Achieve for Your Patients
Patient criteria will vary for each remote monitoring program. Therefore, it’s important to look at the needs of your patient and the workflows to support those needs. Needs easily translate into goals. And, goals are important to set at the very start of a remote health monitoring program and its supporting components. In this first must-do step, evaluate what will drive success to your ideal patient outcomes. At Harmonize Health, we recommend going beyond just setting clinical goals and outlining goals including but not limited to: financial goals, team efficiency goals, and national patient safety (NPS) goals. Ask yourself: What patients or conditions drive the most costs? Start setting goals that help drive cost reduction or efficiency. Talk with your program’s stakeholders and supporting staff to discover additional goals. Your goals may target results like reduced hospitalizations, more efficient workflows, improved patient care, and so on. Whatever goals develop to drive these results, make sure they are measurable and help give visibility to a platform’s effectiveness. We cover goals more extensively and provide example starting goals in The Remote Health Management Guide. At the end of the day, goal setting is a critical step to ensure patient remote monitoring programs start right.
#2 Plan Ahead for Long-Term Investments and Any Upfront Costs
Let us preface that an effectively launched remote patient monitoring program will bring a return on investment (ROI) and these programs are the new standard of care for hospitals. That said, any large program launch will require upfront costs and long-term planning. Below is a breakdown of the type of costs and investments to expect:
- Education and training expenses for the team to manage new workflows
- RHM platform purchases on devices, software services, and other features or offerings
- Equipment investments such as laptops, desks, chairs, etc. to interface with RHM platforms
- Time investment to planning staff workflows, remotely managing patient populations, and monitoring patient usage data
Thinking through these investments will help you navigate deploying a remote patient monitoring program that will scale and fit your patient’s unique needs.
#3 Get Staff and Patient Buy-In
Change is difficult for everyone. Therefore, care teams and patients must be part of the change. Get the staff involved early on to understand the importance of remote patient monitoring. This is as basic as communicating what their roles and responsibilities are or how they can collect and analyze data to better support their patient’s needs. Additional measures include showing the staff how remote patient monitoring streamlines time with redundant daily tasks. For example, answered and unanswered calls for vitals. Or, how they will manage the devices or interventions. Another way to get staff buy-in is through in-person training and developing educational materials. There are third-party platform partners who offer this service. Especially, when time is limited or there isn’t a resource available to cover these responsibilities.
Key steps like the above ensure each staff member’s role is understood in a clinically significant way. The goal is to motivate the team but also bring confidence in their ability to drive a new standard of care.
When educating patients (and even staff), here are some tips to follow:
- Emphasize the convenience and ease the patient will experience with the technology.
- Bring understanding to how the patient’s data will contribute to overall better care between them and their doctor - minimizing intrusion into their daily lives.
- Show the value in the patient’s data and how the measurement of health goes beyond how the patient feels because it’s delivering data insight for preventative care and treatment.
- Empower the patient to use the technology to help troubleshoot their own problems and advocate for their own medical needs in tandem with having their doctor daily connected to their health reports.
Setting and discussing expectations with staff early in the program is a great step to successful patient engagement and adoption. This will further drive buy-in but will also help anticipate any barriers to adoption. By including your team’s perspective and getting them onboarded early on, you will better identify ways to accommodate workflows, training, and technology investments.
This leads us to the next must-do…selecting the right platform.
#4 Choose the Right Remote Health Management (RHM) Platform
According to a 2019 study by Spyglass, approximately 88% of providers are investing in remote monitoring systems for better care of chronic and acute patients. That’s a big pre-pandemic number and one can assume this has significantly increased today. And, so has the platform provider options. But with all the options available today, companies who state they offer remote patient monitoring services may fall short of comprehensive, integrated, and user-friendly offerings. You will need to carefully select a long-term partner, not a transactional partner, whose offerings support your overall goals. Remember those must-do goals from earlier? They have a big role in determining which platform is right for you.
Let’s break this down by taking the top-recommended goals outlined in The Remote Health Management Guide and applying some RHM platform features to see how things stack up. Are they good, better, or best for driving the overall program goals? See the example table below:
This is one simple way to see if the platform partner and their offerings will support your needs - the best. By aligning capabilities against needs, you can focus on the right offerings. Don’t forget: Think about what you need now but also what you want in the future.
#5 Keep Patients Engaged
With remote patient monitoring, more patients access their own data and understand their treatments. But this only does not keep a patient fully satisfied or engaged with the platform. There are a lot more factors to achieve high, ongoing patient engagement rates. This is due to the program being “remote” and also the target patient population who often enroll in this type of program.
At Harmonize Health, we help our customers maintain a >70% patient engagement rate. Here are some guiding principles we’ve learned along the way:
1. Offer a patient-centric experience.
Securing a patient’s buy-in with the program is one small step. While they enroll in the program engage with your patients by answering or prompting questions, providing ongoing treatment support, and working with the patient to achieve their individual treatment goals. Remember, this level of support is the new standard of care. There are third-party platform partners who will help streamline this or supplement this workflow for you.
2. Be flexible and adaptable to the patient’s needs.
No two patients are the same. It is important to keep your program and platform built to an individual’s unique needs. When working with a platform partner, ensure there is some level of customized offerings. For example, at Harmonize Health we offer customized kits with individualized digital health tools. Custom doesn’t mean difficult. The platform must work for various devices, work out-of-the-box, and offer features for various user types. When a program is easy and flexible, staff and patients are more willing (and excited) to engage with it.
3. Provide patient education and training.
The program is about the patient. Training and education are an ongoing part of the program. More often than not, we see education and training fall short in remote monitoring programs. This is due to time, lack of planning at the onset of the program, and not setting standards in the program to keep patient training a part of the ongoing delivery of a program. When patients understand the technical and the clinical - the “what’s in it for them” and “how-to” - they are more confident and hold themselves more accountable during the program.
4. Monitor data overwhelm and make data manageable.
It’s important patients know how data contributes to their care and helps in preventative care. This level of visibility keeps a patient interested, invested, and empowered. But the data can also be overwhelming to an individual. Set expectations with the data: what it will look like, how they can apply or use the data during the program, what is normal or not, etc. Make the data manageable for the patient to use it. It’s important the platform you use offers ways to help bring access and data visibility in an easy, relevant way.
5. Provide reliable communication.
At Harmonize Health, we find rapid video visits and chats are an effective way to communicate with patients because this lets the patient feel you are readily available at any time for their needs. Reliability and trust go a long way for a patient with concerns or who may just need help to troubleshoot an issue - large or small. We recommend investing in a remote monitoring platform that will provide features like this (and more) to support effective two-way communication.
Simply put, engaged patients drive better program results. Find ways in and outside of the platform to support deeper patient engagement. Sometimes this can be automated, sometimes it’s a service offering from the RHM vendor.
Do you have questions or need more guidance on remote patient monitoring? Contact us for a complimentary consultation on how to deploy your RHM program.
Harmonize Health is a remote health management platform that helps providers engage patients easily to improve their health.