The digital revolution has brought significant advancements in the healthcare field, revolutionizing how medical professionals provide care to patients. Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring have emerged as powerful tools that allow doctors to deliver healthcare services remotely, transcending geographical barriers and improving access to care. In this article, we will explore the synergistic approach of telemedicine and remote patient monitoring and how they are transforming the landscape of virtual healthcare.
The Rise of Telemedicine
Telemedicine, or telehealth, refers to the remote delivery of healthcare services using telecommunications technology. This approach lets patients connect with healthcare providers virtually, allowing convenient and efficient care without needing in-person visits. Telemedicine has gained traction recently due to its numerous benefits, such as reduced travel time and costs, improved access to specialists, and increased patient satisfaction.
One notable component of telemedicine is remote patient monitoring. This entails using technology to collect and transmit patient data, including vital signs, symptoms, and medication adherence, from the patient’s home to the healthcare provider. Through remote patient monitoring, healthcare professionals can closely monitor patients’ health conditions, identify any changes or trends, and make timely interventions or adjustments to their treatment plans.
Remote Patient Monitoring: Managed By Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) Codes
Remote patient monitoring is managed by CPT codes, a standardized system for reporting medical procedures and services performed by healthcare providers. These codes enable healthcare organizations to accurately bill for remote patient monitoring services and ensure proper reimbursement.
By utilizing CPT codes, healthcare providers can seamlessly incorporate remote patient monitoring into their practice, ensuring quality care and financial sustainability.
With the trend of remote working on the rise and telehealth becoming increasingly significant, high-speed internet has become a fundamental necessity for every community. Despite these advancements, rural Americans are being left behind. According to the Federal Communications Commission, around 17% of rural Americans lack broadband access as of 2019, the most recent data available. Urban Americans without broadband access is in the low single digits. As such, the absence of high-speed internet directly affects the implementation of telehealth in rural areas.
Even more concerning is the fact that rural communities in the U.S. are facing a shortage of healthcare professionals. It is estimated that 4,000 additional primary care practitioners are needed to meet the needs of rural communities. Rural Americans often need to travel long distances to access specialty care in person, but travel is not an option for everyone, leading to delayed care and poor health outcomes. Rural Americans also have higher rates of death, disability, and chronic disease than urban Americans, and are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 infections.
Fortunately, increased broadband access in outlying areas can help patients get the care they need and close the accessibility gap thanks to telehealth for rural communities. As these solutions gain traction, it is now more important than ever to ensure that telehealth options and increased broadband capabilities are implemented as we work to improve rural healthcare.
How Telehealth Solutions Are Closing the Accessibility Gap
Telehealth solutions are already closing the gap in healthcare access for rural citizens in several ways. For example, the technology used in telehealth has improved in recent years, with increased integrations between platforms, medical devices, and EMRs. The platforms themselves have never been more user-friendly. These advancements make it easier and more accessible for patients and providers to use telehealth services.
Furthermore, scalable solutions have provided a greater variety of services. The range of telehealth services available has expanded in recent years, with technology that addresses multiple specialties under a single platform. This also includes more widespread coverage. As telehealth solutions and services have expanded, so have insurance coverage options. These improvements make telehealth a more cost-effective solution for many patients for the right use cases.
There have been several regulatory changes in recent years that have made it easier for healthcare providers to offer telehealth services, such as temporary waivers on certain requirements. All these improvements in technology, insurance, and increased telehealth service offerings have worked together to create more accessible health solutions than ever before.
Technology has had a massive role to play in the improvement of the globe as a whole. The world is now closer than ever, with the internet bringing us technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. While the Internet of things may be highly nuanced, this niche technology is widely used across industries, including the medical and healthcare sector. In the last 50 years, we have made monumental leaps in the league of healthcare by introducing revolutionary models that were once a distant dream.
Today, the life expectancy of humans is higher than ever, with the help of research and development and treatments that are a product of technology. For instance, the speed at which the COVID-19 vaccines were researched, tested, devised, and administered on a global scale is no less than a miracle, as compared to the number of lives the Spanish Influenza took in 1918. To have a deeper understanding of the strides made in these aspects, this blog will address five areas where Hong Kong’s healthcare has benefitted from technological expansion.
Diagnostics and testing
One of the best things to happen to humanity is the creation of diagnostic tools that can perform tests of all kinds. Not only do these extensive tests help in the early detection of lethal diseases, but can help in prevention, control, and treatment. Several chronic conditions like cancer were detected a little too late in the past. However, today Hong Kong has experts with whom you can get a Hospital Authority Referral for routine checks, focused diagnostics, and scans. These are not now a vital aspect of preventive healthcare.
Wearable technology is no less than a futuristic concept in the flesh for us here in 2022. There are several gadgets that can help you stay healthier and live a long life with life-saving capabilities. For instance, there are wearables for people with heart problems to administer controlled and minor electrocution in order to revive the heart if there are instances of cardiac arrhythmia or an arrest. Additionally, there are also devices that can help diabetics keep their insulin levels under control with a patch wearable that helps regulate their vitals.
Apart from treatment and operation-based technologies, there are several other purposes that AI can be used in medical care. One of the biggest uses at present is health monitors that can track the health statistics of people. At the most nascent phase, it could be fitness bands that keep track of sleep quality, menstrual cycles, weight management, and the like. But at advanced and clinical stages, wearables are used to monitor patients under clinical trial programs to accumulate data and glean actionable insights.
While the COVID-19 pandemic forced healthcare into a reactionary crisis state in 2020, 2021 offered an opportunity to rethink traditional care delivery models. Divergent views on vaccines, powerful COVID-19 variants and ongoing capacity issues have shown that providers, and the technology companies that support them, will need to continue to evolve in order to serve patients effectively.
As we look towards 2022, experts at Wolters Kluwer Health, a clinical technology and evidence-based solutions provider, outlined their predictions for next year and what they think it will take to properly equip providers to deliver the best care everywhere.
Building trust in an age of digital information overload
Digital health investment in 2021 has focused mostly on technology innovation and workflow improvements. What I’m seeing in the digital health space is akin to the implementation of EMRs, which really focused on the technology itself and not the content inside, which creates the experience for both clinical users and consumers. What’s missing from digital health strategy, and what providers will need to focus on in 2022, is increasing access to high-quality, evidence-based health content that consumers and providers alike can trust and understand. This ease of access is crucially important to overcome the infodemic of COVID-19, with an influx of misleading and rapidly evolving information we’ve seen expand across all areas of healthcare. Effective, engaging digital health requires more than the right technology, but a full-fledged experience that informs and motivates consumers towards evidence-based action.
Jason Burum, general manager, Healthcare Provider Segment, Clinical Effectiveness, at Wolters Kluwer, Health
More compliance, less burden
The pressures of COVID-19 spurred USP to issue interim guidance that provided flexibility for compounding pharmacies, but 2022 is likely to represent a return to stricter compliance. In September, USP issued a Notice of Intent to Revise (NITR) for both USP <797> and USP <795>. With COVID-19 cases continuing to surge across the country, I anticipate hospitals and pharmacy staff in 2022 will increasingly rely on expert solutions and technology to automate and standardize compounding operations in accordance with best practices and the latest compliance requirements. Burnout and technician shortages are happening in pharmacies too and software tools will help alleviate burdens pharmacy staff face right now.
Annie Lambert, PharmD, BCSCP, Clinical Program Manager for Compliance Solutions for Clinical Surveillance & Compliance, Wolters Kluwer, Health
Pitting AI against HAIs
Data show that while hospitals have allocated more resources to infection prevention and control efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, it has largely come at the expense of controlling other far too common healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). It’s true that a larger volume of sicker patients at higher risk of infection and sepsis have been admitted to the hospital over the last year, but the CDC concluded that 2020 increases in HAIs were also a result of lacking surge capacity and other operational challenges. Looking ahead to 2022, as hospitals take aim at controlling all HAIs in addition to COVID-19 with more resilient care teams, they will be looking more closely than ever at AI-powered technology to support proactive and real-time monitoring of patients to empower staff with quick risk identification abilities and opportunities for earlier clinical intervention.
Mackenzie Weise, MPH, CIC, Infection Prevention Clinical Program Manager for Clinical Surveillance & Compliance, Wolters Kluwer, Health
Telemedicine grows up
Contrary to some news stories, telemedicine will prove resilient well past the pandemic and will establish itself as a permanent, significant fixture in the healthcare ecosystem. In 2022, I expect healthcare providers themselves will strengthen and formalize training to research and promote telehealth best practices to their clinicians. It’s already happening, and I expect to see specialties like mental health and urgent care shifting to a predominantly virtual model in 2022. Ultimately, I believe that the rise of telehealth will drive more dialogue around modes of access as an issue not only of tech but also equity in the years to come. This in turn will have big impacts in the future of medical practice.
Vikram Savkar, vice president and general manager, Medicine Segment of Health Learning, Research & Practice
Telemedicine – the practice of providing consultations and medical assistance to patients through video calls – should be a lasting way of administering health care, according to the American Medical Association, particularly for patients with chronic health conditions. It promises to free up doctors’ offices and reduce the amount of time that individuals spend on waiting lists.
From around 2012 onwards, the number of people using telemedicine increased globally, year-on-year. Technology made it possible for patients to connect with their doctors remotely, skipping the need to travel to offices for consultations. However, despite the feasibility of such systems, coverage was patchy, right up until 2020.
Once the pandemic hit, though, things began to change. Social distancing meant that medical practitioners had no choice but to shut their doors and administer patient care online. According to the AMA, COVID-19 changed everything. Early on in the crisis, the Trump administration removed many of the regulatory barriers to telemedicine, freeing up providers. The moves made it easy for patients to pay for their care while remaining safely in their homes.
One of the greatest health concerns of modern society is nursing shortages in different states across the world. The prevalence and impacts of the recent Covid-19 pandemic have taught the world that professional nurses and physicians are pertinent to providing quality healthcare services. As the pandemic continued to expand, it became evident that frontline nurses suffered the most, causing an unpredictable shortage of professional healthcare workers at such a poor timing in history. Predictions indicate that by 2030, there will be a shortage of more than 50,000 nurses in certain states.
This trend explains why nursing programs and professionals embrace technology to help in the ideal recruitment, retaining, and monitoring process. Here is how technology helps to counter nurses’ shortages in the healthcare system.
Specialty Preference Over Facility
Gone are the days when nursing and other healthcare job vacancies filled the print media pages. Around a decade ago, influential healthcare policymakers decided that the system would evolve from print journals, specialty publications, and newspapers to social media, website optimization, and email marketing. This strategy would facilitate analytical and metrical monitoring to promote nursing by specialty rather than a facility.
Many nursing training processes take place virtually. Several nurses get assigned to different shifts based on their competence skills and preference areas. Electronic scheduling helps solve the nursing shortage challenge by facilitating trading shifts among professional healthcare workers and establishing a stable balance between work and personal lives.
The medical profession has come a long way from the days when doctors made house calls carrying little black bags with everything they needed for their trade. Changes have occured to the medical profession that have greatly improved the overall health care that patients have access to. Advances in technology have been able to both help improve health outcomes and wellbeing. Technology allows doctors to gain real time data about how their patients are doing. While there are many areas where technology helps patient outcomes, four that should be highlighted include telemedicine, decreasing financial burdens, improving patients’ access to care, and allowing patients to take more control over their own health and wellbeing.
Telehealth, telemedicine, and virtual care are often used interchangeably to describe remote healthcare visits. But virtual care means something much more than just telehealth or telemedicine. In fact, virtual care is in a category all its own. It is the logical, necessary next step in providing access to healthcare for all.
Telemedicine is Evolving
Remote monitoring and telehealth are nothing new. For decades, doctors have been able to monitor patients remotely or provide medical consults over the phone. Anxious parents have called in to 24-7 nurse hotlines to get advice about childhood illnesses and accidents. More recently, with the advancement of smart phones and web cams, new business models were created to connect patients with doctors over the internet.
However, most people still preferred to visit their doctors in person, and most doctors and healthcare centers weren’t considering a major shift to video any time soon.
Then COVID hit. It accelerated peoples’ desire for virtual healthcare visits and helped them feel more comfortable using video conferencing technology. Zoom, FaceTime, Google Meet and Skype became the go-to solutions for clinics large and small that didn’t yet have telehealth in place.
Video conferencing did good things for healthcare:
• Prevented even higher rates of delayed care
• Enabled providers to triage patients from a distance
• Gave quarantined providers a way to treat patients remotely
• Kept more clinics open and providers working
• Improved access to care for more patients
And while these video conference technologies solved an immediate problem, they quickly showed their limitations. These bandage solutions solved one issue while encountering (and even creating) many more problems.
Rapid expansion of video conferencing for healthcare exposed its weaknesses from HIPAA compliance issues, non-secure connections, the inability to bring a third party onto the call, wasted time as patients and/or doctors wait for the other party to join, limited number of users, concurrent calls, and call minutes and even the limited length of calls. The pandemic accelerated everything, even the “bad habits” of telemedicine.