Telemedicine is here, and the promise of empowered healthcare is becoming a reality. But there are significant differences in the level of telehealth offered by providers. Understanding these differences is vital when implementing a long-term strategic plan for your patients and clients.
There are three fundamental levels of remote care. Each progressive level offers exponentially more services and capabilities for your care population.
Level 1 – Remote Communication
We have had the ability to place a phone call for generations, and texting is the new norm. But more recently, healthcare has incorporated HIPAA-compliant video conferencing as a remote communication option.
Why is video so important?
Patients often have a hard time describing an issue – “I have swelling on my face,” or “my lips are cold and turning purple,” for example. Traditionally, a rural patient who would describe these to their provider over the phone might be advised to drive an hour or more into the hospital, so the care team can take a look. This has always been inconvenient, expensive, and potentially life-threatening, if a timely diagnosis and resulting action was required.
With a phone or tablet camera, the patient can now show their face – the swelling will easily be distinguished between mild or severe. The patient can show their oxygen tank and the care professional can see if the oxygen tank is either empty or turned off, resulting in cold, purple lips. Merely turning it back on or replacing the tank will save the hour drive and expensive hospital visit. It will also provide better and more timely care than a mere call or text can provide.
Level 2 – Remote Patient Monitoring
What distinguishes Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) from remote patient communication is the ability to collect and pass biometric data real-time. The at-home patient is provided medical devices –– blood pressure cuffs, a heart rate monitor or pulse oximeter, even a fitbit-type of activity tracker –– and that data can be passed instantaneously to the care team.
True RPM involves a care team available 24/7. An at-home or remote patient or client can transmit biometric data anytime. The care team takes that data and can provide guidance, monitor for abnormal readings, or request a second or more frequent reading; all to monitor a patient’s health.
With RPM, medical professionals get most of the same data they would acquire with an inpatient visit, enabling them to make informed care decisions. Often, decisions help prevent the need for readmissions and the requirement to provide rooms and staff.
With these capabilities, RPM is a significant advancement over remote patient communication.
Level 3 – Remote Patient Engagement
But there is yet another level that takes RPM and provides much more for both the care team and patient, all while requiring no additional staff or facilities. Remote Patient Engagement (RPE) has been referred to as the difference between a calculator (remote patient communication), the first desktop computer (RPM), and the latest smart devices with 10 processors, terabytes of memory, and built-in, Siri-like capabilities (RPE).
True patient engagement incorporates predictive, proactive and preventative care. How does it do it?
Remote Patient Engagement provides the healthcare platform of the future. Some components include:
Surveys. Based on responses, the software can identify and predict potential upcoming issues.
Medication Management. This feature reminds the patient to take medicine, provides proactive alerts if medicine was not taken, provide information about when and how to take medicine, and to be proactive when new medications are added.
Nutrition Management. This feature, which can be voice-driven, records food intake and counts calories and nutritional information. It can provide recommendations and guidance for food intake, warn of excessive cholesterol, sugar, or other ingredients, and offer tutorials on food preparation.
Tailored Education and Resource Library. Based on the medical issue of the patient, RPE not only provides a resource library, it can create a learning regimen for the patient and their family to become better educated on their specific condition. And it can all be accessed on the patient’s tablet or smart device.
Secure Messaging. HIPAA-compliant communication is key for any remote healthcare solution. With RPE, texts, pictures and videos are secure sent and HIPAA-compliant.
Reward/Gamification. For true adoption of technology, rewards and gamification are proven to solidify use and loyalty. Advanced RPE platforms have built-in rewards and user-activated gamification for achieving goals, recording vitals, completing a task, reviewing education material and more. Healthcare providers can create and implement incentives and rewards to encourage adoption. This can also lower care costs over time.
Family Participation. True RPE includes the active participation of close family members and loved ones. At the patient’s discretion, some or all data can be shared with family members and friends. They can access the app and the care team 24/7 from anywhere. They can also be on the patient’s list of those to be contacted by care providers for updates or concerns. Including friends and family in a patient’s care has proven to create better long-term outcomes.
Smart Device Capable. True RPE can tie into all bluetooth capable devices, pulling data from fitbit-type activity trackers, glucose monitors, scales, pacemakers, insulin pumps, neuro-monitoring systems, and other medical devices. As more advanced devices are created, they will be seamlessly incorporated into the smart device network.
Do All Remote Patient Engagement Providers Offer All of These Capabilities?
The number of Remote Patient Engagement providers is understandably fewer than Remote Patient Monitoring. And within that subset, not all platforms offer all of the services noted above. m.Care, developed by LifeSience Technologies, is one such platform that provides a full suite of capabilities.
m.Care technology burst on the scene in 2014 when it was competitively selected to provide the software to power Mercy Virtual, the first virtual healthcare center in the world. LifeSience Technologies’ history of utilizing technology to create modern healthcare solutions led to the development of a deeper, more robust platform than was being envisioned at the time.
Their experience at building custom solutions proved critical to creating the interactive, highly successful PRE platform they provide today. While the platform is widely used for the chronic care patient populations, it also has significant penetration in the mental and behavioral health space, corporate wellness, concierge medicine, and payer models.