Smart innovation for savvy practitioners

Running a medical practice can be like running a baseball team. It requires skill, talent, equipment, facilities, and gut instincts. But today, managers are also required to include technological expertise in their skills. It is not enough for a doctor to be a good doctor or even a good businessman. The tools of the trade have evolved. The advantage is that some of the tools available can have a significant impact on the ultimate goal – better patient outcomes – without excessive cost to the practitioner.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many issues such as patient access to care and accelerated existing technologies such as telemedicine and innovative options such as remote patient monitoring (RPM).

Deals

RPM isn’t new, but devices and technology continue to evolve and improve, making it a hot topic in practice management discussions. If RPM is expected to save the US healthcare system $200 billion over the next 25 years, as Deloitte research indicates, how will this affect specific practices? ?

RPM offers a more efficient method of care with today’s technologies but there are upfront costs in equipment, training, adapting processes, etc., although the capital outlay is often lower than with conventional medical equipment . The implementation of a new technology is not immediate, so it is necessary to transport the existing systems while gradually introducing the new one.

For medicine, the advantages are multiple. When the proper RPM technology is used successfully, patients do not have to travel back and forth to the clinic and appointments can be managed on a tighter schedule. RPM can also improve speed and data access. For example, vital signs and other physiological information can be automatically captured by patients at home and routed to the clinic with little patient or provider intervention, increasing both data speed and accuracy.

With acute care for a specific incident or condition, RPM can facilitate earlier discharge of a patient from the hospital or inpatient facility if the condition can be effectively monitored at home. RPM technology can provide an automated and continuous way to monitor the patient and alert the caregiver to a potential problem.

Savings

There is no denying that healthcare is a business. Practices and healthcare facilities need to manage patients effectively in order to be profitable. Optimizing the doctor’s time is therefore essential. Even with RPM, it can be difficult to justify the ROI of a new technology to replace an existing process. However, using RPM to add a new revenue stream can be financially attractive for vendors. Here is an example. Cardiologists have used Holter monitors for decades, but they still require multiple in-person patient visits as well as a technician to download and review the data. While a Holter might be the best choice for some patients, the addition of a mobile telemetry-based heart monitoring option adds a more appealing service option for certain demographics.

McKinsey reported that “$250 billion in US healthcare spending could potentially shift to virtual or virtually enabled care,” especially among patients who have grown up with technology. But for virtual care to go beyond video calls and telemedicine, clinicians must identify the compelling application for using the new technology.

Think about when computers became mainstream. Being told that you can perform a myriad of new tasks with a computer is great – conceptually. But in reality, it doesn’t matter unless one of these functions fulfills a compelling need. Learning that you could use a computer to create a spreadsheet that cut your bookmaking time from 15 hours to three hours was worth the cost of equipment, software, and training.

The scheme is similar. For example, to monitor blood pressure, patients are often asked to take manual blood pressure readings throughout the day over several days. The problem with conventional BP cuffs is that the entire burden falls on the patient to remember to read and record the information, which often results in poor and/or sporadic data. By using a wearable medical device that can automatically and continuously capture blood pressure readings, the data will be more accurate and reliable, leading to better diagnosis and better treatment.

RPM’s continuous monitoring provides a huge amount of raw data. The right app should show the clinician simplified data applicable to the situation. Consider self-driving cars. On-board sensors generate large amounts of data, but the software analyzes and filters only what the driver needs to see. Similarly, continuous RPM monitoring generates mountains of data, but the right software and algorithm makes the data useful to the clinician without being overwhelming.

The future

Like many other technologies, RPM can seem intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be. Clinicians have the opportunity to help evolve healthcare by bringing technology into the mainstream. Face-to-face medicine is not the only option; it’s just the standard care model. Years ago home visits were the norm; why can’t RPM help usher in a new phase through a generation that grew up with cellphones and the internet as necessities? Health care can lead the way, with physicians serving as both practitioners and key decision makers.

Jiang Li is founder and CEO of Vivalink, a provider of connected healthcare technology for patient monitoring and telemedicine.

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