Community Wellness Chief Medical Officer, Scott Parazynski, MD, and Chief Strategy Officer, Gene Preston, presented the challenges and value proposition of remote patient monitoring (RPM) to the Kentucky Hospital Association‘s HFMA annual conference.
When your core customer is a chronically ill Medicare-eligible patient in their 70s, 80s, or even 90s, you have challenges connecting to them you might not have if you’re working with a software engineer in their prime. I kid with our enrollment team that we should screen for former Cisco, Microsoft, or Apple employees first. Tech-savvy patients are a dream but not a reality. Some are very good; some have never used a smart device. So, how do you address the challenges of Remote Patient Monitoring with this population?
First, our patients mostly bring their own device to download our tracking app, MyWellness Connect™. To get the full benefit of Remote Patient Monitoring, you need a touch screen smart device. But some patients in this segment still have flip phones. As most RPM providers use Bluetooth-enabled sensors, they need either a smartphone or tablet. One solution is to provide a pre-paired device and instruct them how to use it. It may be intimidating at first, but our coaches are very patient and trained for these situations.
We also found that some couples share the same device and/or email address. Our app can support multiple logins, but each user needs their own unique email. So, we help them set up an email account and teach them how to use it.
Remote patient monitoring video chats
Some patients haven’t used video chat before, such as Skype, Facetime, or Zoom. For the best experience and results during their coaching sessions, we’d like them to join our video calls. Many of our patients are hesitant to try new technology, which poses a challenge as we’ve found that video calls are more productive than voice-only calls. So, we send them a link that enables them to join without logging in or setting up new programs. Just tap the link and they’re in the conference. If there’s any issue with using their camera or microphone, we can help with that too.
It’s also important to have patients authorize designees who can listen in and participate in the telehealth sessions. These can be relatives, friends, or professional home health aides. They need not be physically in the same place as the patient, but be present in the sessions and help with any questions the patient may have. The inclusion of someone the patient knows on the calls can be comforting and solve issues faster.
That brings up the next subject – account management. We often find that our patients have difficulty in remembering passwords. And no surprise there! It’s hard to keep track of the many unique passwords we need these days. But, by encoding patient logins in every alert and message we send, the patients don’t need to remember their password to track their vital signs. Otherwise, we might need full-time help just for resetting them. Everything is encrypted for the highest security as well.
Connectivity can be a problem. WiFi is not required but provides a better experience, especially for video telehealth conferences. But some elderly either don’t have WiFi or don’t know their WiFi password. And sometimes cable companies throttle bandwidth so a sudden jump in data transmission may not be well supported. We can provide a cellular-enabled tablet or phone in some cases or just assist with getting connected.
Other remote patient monitoring issues
The remaining issues with getting patients set up and comfortable with technology are common across the software spectrum. Eyesight decline can make it hard to see small text or buttons. High density text or sections can be confusing so pages and views should be simplified. Alerts and warnings should be clear and color-coded. Buttons should be large and have obvious functions.
In summary, though technology can be intimidating to some patients, we have developed software and processes to help overcome their hesitancy. The addition of trained and experienced coaches, technical support, and enrollment specialists, can quickly get this segment comfortably recording their vital signs, taking medications on time, and interacting in telehealth sessions.