How to Select Remote Patient Monitoring Programs for Community Health Centers

4 min read

Funding for remote patient monitoring programs (RPM) is available

The COVID-19 pandemic forced telehealth to become the primary means through which patients interacted with their providers. In the United States this led to a 20-fold increase in telemedicine¹. And even though telehealth use has slightly decreased in 2021, it’s clear it is here to stay². Several federal funding grants have been launched by the U.S. government to support organizations managing this increase in telemedicine. Among them, the Covid-19 Telehealth Program allocated $200M to 539 healthcare awardees in 2020 and is planning an additional $250M in funding for 2021. In addition, the three-year Connected Care Pilot Program will provide $58M to 59 pilot projects in 2021 to support connected care services among eligible healthcare providers.

Other funding for RPM is available through the National Hypertension Control Initiative (NHCI), a 3-year $90M cooperative agreement between the American Heart Association (AHA), the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), the Office of Minority Health (OMH), and the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA). It aims at reducing healthcare disparities by improving blood pressure control among the most vulnerable populations, including racial and ethnic minorities.

Organizations who secure funding for telehealth services can choose RPM providers, but selecting the right one is critical and requires four considerations key stakeholders should keep in mind.

Four steps to choose the most appropriate RPM for a community health center

1. Focus on patient usability

Tech is the solution in telehealth, but actual devices that patients use have to be built with every limit in mind when it comes to accessibility. “We can have really cool tech, but if our patients don’t understand how to use it, then it is useless,” says Stacy Hurt, a patient consultant. Chronic patients, especially those suffering from the digital divide, are especially important to consider when adopting a new RPM. To reach the goal of onboarding as many patients as possible, devices must be simple for any patient to use, take medical-grade measurements, be consistently used, and autonomously transmit private and secure data.

However, setting up Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connected devices can often be a source of friction for patients as they may not have access to a smartphone or a Wi-Fi network at home, may not be tech-savvy, or may drop out of the installation process if it is long or difficult. Cellular-enabled devices are one solution to this problem and are covered under the grants listed above. Cellular devices are easy for patients to use, and require minimum education from providers. This enables healthcare professionals to focus their time and resources on what’s important: their patients’ health.

2. Ensure easy and secure data transmission to the health center

Large amounts of time and money are spent setting up electronic health record (EHR) systems. Consequently, whatever RPM system is selected should integrate directly into existing IT environments and not require reinventing the wheel to implement. In addition to integrating with existing environments, selecting a HIPAA-compliant platform is a reliable way to ensure that you will be meeting best practices when it comes to requirements around managing personal health data.

Beyond HIPAA compliance, the selected devices can have an impact on the data transmission. For example, when using Bluetooth-enabled devices, patients have to be careful to remain close to their smartphones with their applications open during measurements and synchronization. Consequently, this Bluetooth requirement increases the risk of data not being fully collected and transmitted.

3. Optimize funding allocation with a cost-effective RPM solution

A key step a community health center should take when selecting an RPM is to identify the solution that is the most economically viable to fit the largest number of patients.

However, identifying the best RPM fit for a center requires an honest look at other external expenses. For example, Bluetooth-enabled medical devices may require the purchase of a smartphone or tablet for patients, the effect of which might increase IT expenses and add friction to their remote medical experience. In addition to that, Bluetooth-enabled devices require an extra step to ensure that the tablet or the smartphone is running in order for data to synchronize, the result of which can block you from collecting necessary patient data.

4. Choose an RPM provider that offers built-in customer support

Having a dedicated support team is a key component. Technical customer support teams help ensure everything is ready prior to implementation without redirecting existing community health center resources away from patient care and other duties. Also, because connected devices and technological solutions can be updated with new features, dedicated support teams can help community health centers take full advantage of the ecosystem.

The best solution you can choose is a solution that will fit into your environment and will adapt to your patients’ situations. Several criteria may have a strong impact on the success of the implementation of your program: the support your RPM provider will be able to provide, the software solution, and last but not least—the quality of the devices.

Learn more about how Withings can help in our followup post: 4 ways Withings can help community health centers succeed with RPM.

[1] Who Is (and Is Not) Receiving Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic, The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published on March 06, 2021

[2]Telehealth bloom expected to flatten, according to new report

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