For practitioners, getting a patient to adhere to a realistic treatment plan is probably one of the toughest aspects of delivering healthcare. The old proverb "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink" speaks volumes to how patients often behave and interact with treatment plans designed to mitigate the effects of their chronic diseases.
You can tell and even show patients all the evidence for why they should adherence to a plan, but without handholding, many patients will eventually deviate from their plans. The good news is that practitioners have solutions that can be difference makers for treatment adherence. One such solution — remote patient monitoring (RPM) — may be the literal handhold patient's need to improve their health and even increase patient engagement in their care.
Patient Engagement With Remote Patient Monitoring: Reaching Patients Where They Are
According to an MGMA poll, only 22% of practices currently offer any kind of remote patient monitoring, which indicates that the solution has plenty of room to grow. Many practitioners who have initiated an RPM program note that their patients are more actively tracking their vital measurements and engaging in their treatment plan. Through RPM, patients who previously found frequent follow-ups with their clinical team and adherence to complex treatment plans difficult are suddenly engaging for the simple reason that engagement has becoming easier for them.
But that's not the only reason remote patient monitoring is improving patient engagement. Let's look at eight more ways RPM enhances engagement.
1. Remote patient monitoring decreases access barriers
For many Americans, getting to and from places is difficult. In fact, a Kaiser Permanente survey found that about one-third of Americans experience stress over transportation needs. Factors can include travel distances, a lack of vehicle, transportation cost, and inadequate infrastructure. Getting to the doctor once a month can be a tremendous hurdle for some patients, but when trying to engage in chronic care management, the frequency of visits often increases to several times a month or even several times a week, depending on the patient's health needs. Many patients simply can't adhere to this frequency and stop engaging all together. RPM can be the solution to this issue as it's an effective means of meeting the patient where they are while still addressing their chronic care needs.
2. Remote patient monitoring provides convenient access for rural patients
Not all patients live close to their doctor. In fact, in a survey of representatives from rural health clinics conducted by the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center, transportation was cited as the top barrier for Medicare beneficiaries to access care in rural communities. Geographic distance, long travel times, and/or the rural location were also common barriers identified. The takeaway: geographical residence is a significant barrier to receiving quality, high-frequency healthcare. Rural patients often lack access to the best practitioners and the most advanced care techniques simply due to where they reside. Since remote patient monitoring uses technology to remove the barrier of location, rural patients can receive the same quality care as patients living in more densely populated locations.
3. Patients become active members of their care team
Remote patient monitoring allows patients to view and better understand their health status. Patients go to the doctor, get a health pep talk, and then leave, but often forget what was discussed or put the subject of their health on the back burner as they shift their attention to what they perceive to be more pressing needs.
With RPM, patients are more likely to become more actively involved with their care due to the physical action and frequency of collecting health data information. Their immediate health situation and needs essentially stares them in the face and can remind them to take their medications, eat healthier, and exercise. Coupled with the more frequent check-ins with their healthcare team that often accompanies RPM, patients tend to become more actively engaged in their overall health and recommended treatment plan.
4. RPM supports more timely care with real-time data collection
In traditionally delivered healthcare, we've always looked to doctors as the all-knowing wizards of health, but it's difficult for them to be this authority and live up to expectations without a crystal ball. Patients aren't generally considered good sources of information about their health, leaving some guesswork for practitioners. Remote patient monitoring can help alleviate patient health literacy shortcomings by providing practitioners with real-time health data information delivered by RPM devices rather than patients themselves. Thanks to the usage of the technology involved in collecting RPM health data, patients become more actively engaged.
5. Patient-provider communication improves
Remote patient monitoring tends to increase the frequency of communication between a patient and their healthcare team and inevitably works to improve the quality of communication overall. By participating in an RPM program, patients tend to develop a stronger relationship with their practitioner. Patients feel more engaged because they feel understood, know they are receiving ongoing monitor of their health, and understand that their healthcare team genuinely cares about their progress and success.
6. Remote patient monitoring supports better care oversight
In traditionally delivered healthcare, once a patient walks out of the office, the practitioner is usually moving on to the next patient. When practitioners are caring for dozens of patients a day, it's challenging to reflect on patients once they are no longer in front of you. This can leave practitioners hoping that their patients take their advice seriously. Since remote patient monitoring typically utilizes a multifaceted care team and frequently engages the patient outside of medical office walls, the care oversight barrier can be removed, thus leading to better patient engagement and increased care team collaboration.
7. Results become perceptible and health goals become more attainable
People tend to be progress or reward driven, meaning we become more engaged in a goal if we're seeing or feeling active movement towards that goal. Remote patient monitoring requires ongoing measurements, so patients can see their progress and become more actively involved in making the lifestyle changes required to reach their health goals.
8. Remote patient monitoring delivers improved patient support
Remote patient monitoring offers patients the wraparound support they need and meets them in the most convenient location: where they are situated. For most patients, participating in a remote patient monitoring program may be the push they need to improve their health, keeping them healthier longer and avoiding expensive hospital admissions.
Patient Engagement and Beyond: Long-Term Value of Remote Patient Monitoring
As our healthcare system evolves towards providing truly patient-centric care, practitioners must remain open-minded and work towards meeting patients where they are in a manner that is meaningful and efficient. Remote patient monitoring functions as an effective avenue to meet patient care needs while delivering practitioners with the fair reimbursement needed to keep their practices viable and growing.
With remote patient monitoring adoption on the rise and the federal government and private payers providing increasing coverage of the service, RPM seems to be here to stay, and the benefits should only grow going forward. As we work to rein in the devastating effects of chronic disease, practitioners can turn to remote patient monitoring as a solution to support and promote better health and do so in a manner that also increases patient engagement.