Chronic conditions drive 75% of the $2.2 billion trillion dollars spent on healthcare in the U.S. 60% of Americans have at least one chronic disease and 40% have 2 or more. For physician practices, a disproportionate amount of their office visits and resources are spent managing their chronic care population. And despite this dedication of resources, the number of Americans with chronic diseases and the cost of managing chronic diseases continues to grow.
The Math of Physician Office Visits
The average office visit only includes 18 minutes of direct physician time for the patient. If chronic care patients have a few office visits a year, what about the other 525,000+ minutes a year? Are those in-office visits enough to provide chronic care treatment, prevention, and patient education? With physician and staff shortages, adding more visits seems unfeasible.
Providing More Preventative Care with Less Resources
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) can be the solution for proactively managing those 525,000+ minutes when your chronic care patients are not at your office? How? RPM provides patients with connected devices so they can take daily readings of vital signs and the data is automatically transmitted to your office. Monitoring clinicians can easily review the data to look for trends and warning signs. And just as important, they can talk and text with patients about their health between visits, providing valuable coaching when it can have the most impact – for example, right after an elevated reading.
An RPM Case Study – Managing Diabetes
Diabetes is one of the most prevalent and costly chronic diseases, impacting roughly 1 in 10 Americans. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) estimates that the direct cost of diabetes treatment is $327 billion.
Many diabetic patients self-monitor their blood sugar, but a high blood sugar reading doesn’t always correspond to one specific problem. Diabetes is a complex disease and a high reading can be an indication of multiple issues. And many patients with diabetes take medications that can have numerous side effects, including weight gain/loss, hypoglycemia, hypertension, and more.
By using RPM-connected glucometers, possibly in conjunction with RPM-enabled weight scales and blood pressure cuffs, diabetic patients are no longer managing their condition on their own between physician visits. A licensed clinician can develop a continuous, remote relationship with a patient to look at their health holistically.
High blood sugar often leads to secondary issues that are a manifestation of high blood sugar – high blood pressure, fatigue, urinary tract infections, vision problems etc. RPM clinicians that are tracking a patient’s health daily can troubleshoot all of these potentially related issues to adjust treatment plans and medication before a crisis event occurs.
By engaging with clinicians on a regular basis, RPM also provides increased self-awareness that can lead to healthier lifestyle choices and improved quality of life. For example, a diabetic patient at a birthday party may be eager to dive into a large slice of a cake. However, if she knows the last time she binged on sweets, her blood sugar spiked and her remote nurse called her and helped her realize that her ensuing fatigue was related to the blood sugar spike and crash, she may reach for a mini cupcake instead.
Clinical research has shown that it is the combination of vital sign tracking with patient coaching and education that really drives improved outcomes in lowering A1C and improving quality of life for diabetic patients.
How Does RPM Actually Extend my Staff Capacity?
That diabetes example might sound like it would be creating a lot of extra work for your already-taxed staff. Helping chronic care patients achieve better outcomes through continuous, preventative care does require daily monitoring and investment of clinical resources. However, it doesn’t have to be your office’s resources. Some RPM partners, including Optimize Health, offer monitoring services, where our nurses become an extension of your staff.
Outsourced nurses would conduct the monitoring, provide health coaching, and communicate with your RPM patients regularly while providing daily communication to your team on relevant patient updates. They have the expertise to assess patients to prevent false escalations, but will always follow the clinical protocols and escalation policies that your practice establishes.
We understand many practices are dealing with nursing shortages, but providing remote care on a more flexible schedule appeals to many nurses that may be leaving clinic or hospital-based care due to burnout. This enables RPM to extend your office’s capacity with remote nurses as well as contribute to the national nursing shortage solution.
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