Telehealth & Remote Care Can
Help Private Practices
“New technologies are fundamentally changing the way people interact with health care.
Successful implementation of digital health technology will be imperative for improving patient
outcomes and ensuring financial stability for health care practices.”
It might seem that technology in medical care applies only to the methods in which providers diagnose and treat patients – advances in MRI technology, robotic surgeries and new methods of developing drugs, are just some of the most obvious examples. Within the medical office itself, some providers may feel that only the largest of practices are able to integrate the latest in advanced technologies.
But current technologies, such as telehealth and remote patient care, are widely available and very cost-effective for practices of all sizes. Delivering patient care on a more consistent and personal basis may even give the edge now to the independent practice. Rapid adaptation and implementation of the latest advances can help fill gaps in patient care, while alleviating the financial burdens often associated with the administrative and overhead costs of operating a growing medical office.
Especially as the pandemic plays out across the country, more practices are looking for ways to stay in touch with patients, while continuing to provide high levels of medical care. This blog post looks at the differences between technologies and discusses how independent practices can increase remote patient monitoring in order to provide higher levels of care for all patients.
What are the Latest Advances in Telehealth and Remote Care?
Remote Patient Monitoring
These include the various ways a provider can remotely capture and record patient data, which is particularly important for patients who require chronic care management or long-term care. Technologies might include glucose meters, blood pressure monitors, pacemakers and oximeters, all of which measure vital signs and transmit this data to the medical practice for analysis. The key here is that these results must be entered into the EHR and assessed for any potential change to the patient care plan.
This represents the increased ability for provider and patient to continue communications, even though they are not present in the same physical location. Usually this involves the use of a video chat capability, but it may sometimes be completed through a telephone call. It also includes the ability to communicate via secure messaging or through a patient portal.
As the federal government moves forward toward increased ability to share data across providers, payers, and other organizations, technology will play an integral role in giving participants access to data, security, and implementation tools.
Internal Mechanisms to Support Remote Care
If the remote care initiative is to work, there must be an internal set-up at the practice itself to facilitate this process. The latest advances in Electronic Health Records (EHR), medical billing, and speech recognition can digitize many functions, increase provider efficiency, and improve revenue flows.
External Mechanisms to Support Remote Care
Avoiding or delaying office visits may compromise the management of chronic conditions, creating the need for additional support and alternative methods of care. A flow of data may be available from remote patient monitoring, but staff availability to manage this information may be limited. External remote care services, such as Virtual Preventative Care Assistant from Amazing Charts, can add remote staff, or contract out existing staff, to reduce labor costs while maintaining patient continuity. The practice only incurs costs when codes are billed out.
How to Successfully Integrate Remote Patient Monitoring at Your Independent Practice
Steps to integrate remote patient monitoring are similar to those practices follow to implement telehealth. The emphasis in both cases lies heavily on education and communication. Tips to make the process easier and more efficient include:
Quanitfy Your Need
Determine how many patients in your independent practice will benefit from remote monitoring and remote care. Think about whether they have the technology to monitor and transmit their information to your office, and how your practice will integrate that information into their EHR and follow-up on any observations.
Create an Implementation Team
Ramping up your remote care capabilities to improve service delivery should not be limited to just the primary providers. An initiative such as this should include people from various parts of your team, who can provide input and direction as needed. You may need to solicit input from medical providers, scheduling personnel, IT, billing, and legal perspectives to anticipate barriers and recommend solutions.
Set Up an Implementation Workflow
Document how you provide care currently, so you can envision how to incorporate remote care into this process. Look at personnel needs, hardware and software requirements, bandwidth availability, office space, and ways to integrate with EHR and billing systems.
Determine Care Parameters
Decide how data from remote care monitoring will be received and analyzed, and whether this process will be managed internally or externally. At what point should the primary care provider get involved to reassess the patient care plan? How will cases be flagged for immediate, emergency intervention?
Implement Program Rollout
Start with internal testing, then begin to rollout the remote care program to a small patient cohort. Analyze results and make changes to determine the target date for full implementation.
A successful rollout requires full participation from both staff and patients. Allow time for internal awareness, discussion, training and acceptance. Designate lead personnel to help others who may experience difficultly. Carry out a complete communication program to patients to introduce them to this exciting new approach to care delivery. Include announcements in your office, through your website and social media, and via email. Create additional education mechanisms for those patients who might not be technically inclined, such as telephone on video chat instruction, online videos, and in-office or online seminars. Make sure patients understand how providing this data and fully participating in the process will contribute positively to their care.
Analyze and Update
As your remote care program rolls out to your complete patient base, assess how well it can help meet your practice goals for providing care and maintaining financial viability. If your metrics do not meet your goals, assess where problems may be occurring, and make adjustments or provide additional education as needed.
Key Missteps to Avoid When Integrating Remote Patient Monitoring
To ensure the smooth implementation of remote patient monitoring at your independent practice, avoid the following missteps:
Not Integrating Remote Care Into Everyday Workflow
Remote care should be an adjunct and support to the in-office care provided by your practice. Take steps to ensure that it is understood and utilized by all aspects of your practice, from patient and providers, through IT and billing. Carefully chart a process as to how these remote devices are managed, data is collected and analyzed, and appropriate interventions are taken. Most of all, you want to be sure that your practice is properly compensated for the time invested in this form of patient care. Create a smooth workflow that integrates remote care into current practices.
Missing Key Requirements of the Remote Care Process
Since a great deal of remote care monitoring depends on the accuracy of the digital devices installed, both providers and patients will have to understand how to manage these devices, calibrate them as needed, and track accumulated data. Staff at the practice should be prepared to handle incoming telephone and online questions regarding device management. All data must quickly be entered into the EHR, so any medical provider will have access to the latest patient information.
Looking Too Much at Data
While more data is generally a good thing, too much data can quickly get out of hand. Collect only information that is relevant to a patient’s condition and care. Define internal protocols as to which staff members are empowered to act on particular data points. Bring your vendor into the process to serve as a resource to help you screen out important data for analysis and action. Also address any privacy and security concerns with your support team.
Case Studies of Applying Remote Patient Monitoring
“I had a young mom, she kept passing out, saw multiple physicians, etc., so we did a remote monitoring device. Sure enough, within two months, we picked up a rhythm that was easily curable for life.”
~ Dr. Raj S., Cardiologist (SCL Health)
A 2018 JAMA-published study also demonstrates how Remote Patient Monitoring has the potential to significantly increase blood pressure control. According to the study, hypertension is the most common chronic condition for which patients see primary care physicians. Left under-treated, it can lead to severe and life-threatening complications.
In-clinic monitoring of blood pressure readings is difficult due to the “white coat” syndrome experienced by many patients. A better approach is to monitor these readings during the everyday activities of the patient. Remote Patient Monitoring addresses data issues by:
- Taking more frequent readings over a longer period of time.
- Checking levels during various forms of activity throughout the day.
- Regularly transmitting data to the provider for interpretation and possible action.
- Allowing the provider to make indicated changes earlier in the treatment plan.
Today’s wearables make the transmission of regular data even less intrusive into the patient’s lifestyle. Study results showed that remote monitoring can indeed maintain better levels of target blood pressure readings over an extended period of time.
Adding External Remote Care Services to Your Patient Care Kit
One of the latest ways to increase revenue and maximize provider productivity is through the use of external remote care services, such as Virtual Preventative Care Assistant from Amazing Charts. This is a full-service practice support solution which fills the gaps in patient care. With remote monitoring, in particular, there will be a large amount of data coming in from patients who need consistent care, but they cannot visit the office easily due to transportation, social distancing, or remote location concerns.
Under a physician’s guidance, a virtual preventative care assistant can augment staff in support of televisits, or in cases of chronic care management, remote patient monitoring, and behavioral health integration. Information gathered can be remotely entered into the practice EHR to fully document follow-up discussions. With Amazing Charts, the program also leverages existing billing codes, so your practice can immediately begin benefitting from this service with no upfront costs.
Benefits of Remote Patient Monitoring to Your Independent Practice
Because it is looked at differently from the in-person visit, there is a learning curve associated with remote care. Although it might take some time to reach full implementation, the benefits which will accrue to your practice will be well worth the investment of time and staff resources:
- Better use of limited internal resources by using advances in technology to leverage patient care.
- More precise monitoring of chronic care and long-term patients through the continued collection and assessment of pertinent data.
- Ability to access external remote care services to supplement and support internal capabilities.
- Improved continuity of patient care.
- Comprehensive documentation of patient interactions into your Electronic Health Record.
- Ability to increase revenue by increasing preventative care services.
Perhaps most important to the independent practice is the ability to maintain a high level of patient service, even in the most difficult of circumstances. COVID restrictions forced practices to quickly integrate telemedicine, but smart independent practices are taking the lessons learned to realize a service advantage that will not only help them thrive but remain independent in the times ahead.
Healthcare Technology Solutions Designed By and For Independent Practices
Amazing Charts was founded in 2001 by a practicing family physician to help medical practices thrive. We have grown consistently since then by creating easy-to-use solutions for delivering patient care. Today, we offer a variety of additional capabilities designed to help independent practices succeed, including Electronic Health Records, Practice Management, Billing Services, Population Health and Remote Care. Call 866-382-5932 to learn about our products, schedule a practice consultation, and learn more about telehealth pandemic lessons that can help your independent practice grow.