Strategic Planning

Five Strategies for Building an Equitable and Low-Tech Remote Patient Monitoring Program

Healthcare organizations consider RPM solutions accessible to patients

Erika HalseyThe COVID-19 pandemic prompted a monumental shift toward digital care and signaled the need for healthcare organizations to quickly implement and scale robust virtual care strategies.

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a critical component of any healthcare organization’s virtual care strategy, allowing organizations to identify and pre-empt potentially dangerous and costly escalations, improving overall patient health outcomes and reducing avoidable medical costs. Healthcare organizations have already seen the value in folding RPM into virtual care strategies. It is estimated that 30 million patients in the U.S. will use RPM tools by 2024, a 28.2% increase compared to 2020

When it comes to RPM, a high-tech, device-based approach isn’t always the answer. In fact, it can limit the populations that you reach due to the costs and technological barriers associated.

When building a robust RPM approach, organizations should consider five strategies for ensuring their RPM solution is scalable, equitable and low-tech.

Bridge the Digital Divide

While the pandemic brought forward more tech-oriented solutions, it also exposed deepening inequalities in our society, including the digital divide. RPM should bridge, not exacerbate, the digital divide to ensure all patients can engage with and benefit.

The American Telehealth Association recently published a framework for eliminating disparities using telehealth, which outlined the need for digital solutions to consider:

  • Connectivity – accessibility of all facets of digital interaction
  • Affordability
  • Health and digital literacy

Where a solely device-based RPM approach excludes the patients most likely to face other health disparities and encounter barriers to accessing care, deviceless RPM that leverages familiar technology — the patient’s existing phone — is free to patients and meets patients where they are in terms of digital and health literacy.

Think High Quality without High Cost

The reach of device-based RPM will always be limited by the high cost of devices. While a device-based solution may be appropriate for a small group of high-risk patients, healthcare organizations will only ever reach 1% or 2% of its population with hardwire RPM technology.

Without the cost ceiling that limits the reach of device-based RPM, deviceless RPM allows healthcare organizations to realize the ROI potential of a solution for a patient population outside a small number of high-risk individuals. In fact, a 2020 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that an intervention targeting super-utilizers showed no statistically significant impact on readmission rates, highlighting the need to look for cost savings and health improvements outside of the high-risk patient pool. 

Deviceless RPM does not sacrifice quality, as actionable, real-time self-reported patient data that studies have shown is as accurate as device-based data.  

For Successful Scaling, Cast a Wide Net

As healthcare organizations seek to scale a deviceless RPM solution beyond a narrow subset of high-risk individuals, a strategic approach should include rising-risk patients, those patients who are predicted to have greater healthcare needs and higher costs in the near term, across multiple conditions. One in 5 rising-risk patients become expensive high-risk patients each year, extending RPM to rising-risk populations allows healthcare organizations to preemptively bend the cost curve.

Furthermore, healthcare organizations should leverage the ability of deviceless RPM to collect both quantitative and qualitative patient data to support individuals across chronic conditions, behavioral health needs, and for specialty support around social determinants of health or maternal health.

In fact, the recent HIMSS-chaired MATCH Coalition Virtual Hill Briefing to Congress highlighted the need for more quality quantitative and qualitative data to resolve the maternal health crises.

This flexibility to monitor patients across a wide range of conditions while using the same familiar technology allows healthcare organizations to reach more people and see the health and financial benefits of a population-level approach to RPM.

Consider Staff Time and Do More with Less

With healthcare staffing shortages expected to increase between now and 2026, healthcare organizations will need to leverage RPM solutions to do more with less. Automating patient outreach using deviceless RPM enables healthcare organizations to reach more patients and ensure staff spend their limited time working top-of-license. Additionally, familiar, easy-to-use RPM technology is needed to prevent staff from becoming tech support for patients.

Vendor enrollment services and the potential for seamless EHR integration are also key components to consider when launching an RPM strategy to make sure staff can stay focused on patient care, thereby increasing staff buy-in and program success.

Let RPM Compliment Your Organization’s Transition to VBC

As more healthcare organizations shift from fee-for-service to value-based care, the need to monitor and realize better patient outcomes for large patient populations in value-based contracts increases. A successful RPM program will ensure healthcare organizations are able to offer and provide high-quality, low-cost remote care for better health outcomes while keeping staff focused on providing patient care.

As virtual care strategies take root across health organizations, those organizations that implement scalable, equitable and low-tech RPM solutions stand to make great gains in patient health outcomes, cost savings and value-based care.

The views and opinions expressed in this content or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.