An Ounce of Prevention
Natural disasters are rarely expected but should be planned and practiced for regularly by everyone. In the medical world, being ready for a natural disaster means so much more than maintaining adequate staffing and supplies. It also means being able to connect with patients at a time when they may need you the most.
Thea Blystone, PharmD, is a clinical pharmacist at Meadville (Pa.) Medical Center, which implemented a remote patient monitoring (RPM) program supported by the Prevounce platform. Dr. Blystone was one of the leaders of this project. She spoke with Prevounce about a range of topics, including why she's such a strong proponent of RPM, results of the program, why RPM is a perfect fit for rural organizations, and the evolving role of pharmacists in rural hospitals. Note: Responses have been edited slightly for clarity.
We have learned a lot about how healthcare works — or sometimes doesn't work — over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. As providers struggled to respond effectively to the fast-spreading virus it became very apparent that we have some outdated and broken components of our healthcare system. COVID stretched our tired healthcare infrastructure to its limits, forcing us to become creative in providing care while accepting and adapting to modern technologies once thought to be prohibitively expensive or else categorized as passing novelties.
Comprehensive care management — also known as "virtual care management" — combines aspects of chronic care management (CCM), remote patient monitoring (RPM), and other billable preventive services to allow providers to take a whole patient approach to managing the medical, functional, and psychological needs for medium- and high-risk patients. For clinicians, comprehensive care management provides patients with the wraparound care they need, not only promoting wellness but also treating and helping prevent acute exacerbations of chronic health conditions. To be successful, it is important that any care management approach be a team effort, eliciting buy-in from the patient's entire healthcare team as well as the patient themselves.
Lately, some areas of healthcare seem to be evolving at lightning speed, with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating progress with relative ease. Adopted just a few years prior to the pandemic's onset, chronic care management (CCM) has now been solidified as a service and emerging care model — one that is bridging distance gaps and helping chronic disease patients reach and sustain better health for longer.
Research supports that educational brochures placed and targeted at the right audience can provide great benefits. Since printed brochures are often available at in-person visits, they can facilitate patient interest, generate helpful questions, and encourage patients to initiate important conversations with their healthcare providers about treatments or services, such as chronic care management (CCM), that they otherwise may not have known about.
The U.S. Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued a "data snapshot" report about the relationship between Medicare beneficiaries and providers for telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chronic care management (CCM) is a valuable service to provide to patients that generates strong revenue for practices, and, as we recently discussed, is an "integral component" of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) long-term patient care and coverage strategy. There may be no better time to add or grow a chronic care management program, especially with a reimbursement increase likely on the horizon.
One of the biggest care management challenges faced by modern daypractitioners is keeping patients focused on the immediate problem or reason for a visit. It's often easy to default into personal conversations with the patient as you connect as humans, but aimless conversations and off-topic detours can prove lethal to the typical practice schedule and mean certain essential aspects of the visit are overlooked or missed altogether, thus creating potential issues with reimbursement.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is gaining ground and securing its permanency within our evolving healthcare system. Ideal for patients who need close monitoring of their ongoing health concerns, RPM can play an essential role in keeping patients healthier for longer and avoiding the acute exacerbations that can land them in the emergency room or hospital.