The pandemic has illustrated how the healthcare sector needs to transform the methods of triage, evaluation, and support for patients beyond the care of in-person appointments. During this unique time, healthcare centers can no longer de-prioritize technological health platforms, via telehealth services. Telehealth services enable essential care to patients while reducing the risk of infectivity risk of COVID-19, to healthcare personnel and patients.
The need for Telehealth and RPM
Voids in sales, scarcity of staff, and problems in available space are not novel for medical care systems and COVID-19 has aggravated these concerns to uncontrollable levels for healthcare providers. Hospitals Reports indicate losses between $80M and $800M every month for instance, The New York academic Health Centers have declared losses up to $450M per month since the beginning of COVID-19.
The principal operator of the decline in the income of the healthcare sector is the abandoned or postponed procedures such as elective surgeries or standing in-person appointments. Moreover, patients are also withdrawing their appointments at earlier dates out of worry and concern of being infected with COVID-19. According to Evidation’s recent study, due to COVID-19, 33% of patients revealed they have avoided or terminated a planned checkup.
Additionally, with shocking income deficits, healthcare supervisors are trying to control the issue of the scarcity of beds and staff to assist those who are severely ill. While medical care personnel are providers themselves, these very people on the frontlines of healthcare, are encountering intense increases in burnout and weakening mental health. A JAMA study carried out in China during the coronavirus pandemic discovered that over 50 percent of medical care workers had symptoms of depression whilst approximately 45 percent of staff had symptoms of anxiety and more than 70 percent felt despaired.
The connection between telehealth and remote patient monitoring
Telehealth services proceed to be promptly utilized to substitute in-person arrangements. With compensation transitorily provided at the same rate as in-person operations, these services are delivering a lifeboat to healthcare workers and patients in the necessity of functional, economic, and medical care. Beyond the realm of the COVID-19 response, telehealth platforms function as a powerful alternative for in-person appointments. In contrast, remote patient monitoring tools act as a powerful and potent addition and augmentation to in-person, with telehealth boosting clinical insights and present a larger longitudinal continuum care model.
Remote patient monitoring enables clinicians to constantly observe and regulate their patients, with either acute or chronic ailments, in-between medical appointments. Via RPM Tools, 24/7 monitoring is available while being connected to Artificial Intelligence-powered programs and device-agnostic systems. As a result, medical practitioners observe patients’ progress with medication and therapy and comprehend regular vital signs (e.g. blood pressure, oxygen levels, temperature checks, blood glucose, etc.), and also stimulate personalized consultations between patients and practitioners to commence behavioral and physical activity developments. As per the National Library of Medicine, remote patient monitoring has sharpened clinical outcomes and clinical outcome evaluations by enhancing hospital effectiveness and presenting a mechanism for patient surveillance. Various recent randomized controlled clinical trials have illustrated that RPM may diminish the number of in-hospital appointments, the duration required for patient follow-up, and social expenses. These applications have exhibited improvements in outcomes, medical and behavioral adherence, and significant goal modifications. Utilizing RPM, providers can examine and interrupt on the foundation of patterns in patients’ results. Consequently, practitioners can intercede before a critical health crisis or emergency.
Harnessing the patient’s information and monitoring their improvement or decline in the trends of their condition, clinicians can anticipate that patients may need supplementary appointments to discuss their circumstances. RPM, in conjunction with telehealth, empowers providers to create occasional visits to foster a support system for the patient in their aims, results, and therapy. Hand in hand, RPM and telehealth operations can assist the hospital supervisors to manage the continuous capacity issues and staff scarcity, while tracking their patients’ biometrics, curtailing the possible susceptibility to COVID-19.
Generating income through remote patient monitoring
Amidst the pandemic, clinicians in small-scale clinics or healthcare centers with in-person visitations were withdrawn, RPM can assist them to uphold their economic status and support their relatives and healthcare teams.
With financial compensation obtainable for remote monitoring, practitioners can employ CPT Code 99457 to charge remote patient monitoring operations and 99453 for the educational models. These two codes facilitate the deployment and scaling of remote monitoring operations by furnishing the economic model for doctors and skilled specialists to be compensated for their time consumed on patient support and care.
CPT code 99453 is a practice cost reimbursing for the establishment and patient awareness and education on how to use RPM tools. Beyond the COVID-19 reaction, Medicare systems are integrating this procedure into quarterly visitations with patients – supplying them with the instruments, establishment, education, and guidance before they go home.
Restrictions on telehealth and RPM in the pandemic?
In specific conditions, in-person appointments are more suitable due to haste and emergencies, such as a patient’s health condition, or a physical examination or laboratory test may need to be conducted, which is not always possible through remote patient monitoring. Also, sometimes patients, especially older adults may be more comfortable in the presence of physical doctors, instead of virtual assistants or e-consultations. As they may not trust technology, there may be patient discomfort in disclosing their details. While Medicare, healthcare and insurance providers endeavor to provide accessible and feasible telehealth services to all people, there is still a gap in the provision of the services for people in rural settings, or of poor socio-economic backgrounds.
However, the future of healthcare lies in virtual care in a post-COVID-19 world. As we advance each day, we must strive to enhance our technology to deliver accessible, affordable, sustainable, and long-term care. By keeping people who do not need urgent medical vigilance at home and out of healthcare centers, telehealth and remote patient monitoring can serve the cause of decreasing the dispersion of COVID-19 and guarantee that scarce healthcare resources are allocated towards the most significant, pressing and dangerous requirements.
Digitized care services are necessitated and imperative now and in a post-COVID world to drastically enhance patient care, clinical outcomes, mental and physical health, and capacity of providers. The frontline workers in hospitals, the first responders, crucial personnel at grocery markets, chemists, and the everyday laborers who build our economy and society can be protected through telehealth.
Kelton High is a Social Sciences undergraduate who majored in International Relations, with a budding interest in qualitative research. He has previously worked at Transparency International.