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Remote patient monitoring: What CIOs can do to make it happen

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a viable solution to a costly and prevalent problem around the world: chronic diseases. Healthcare CIOs have a vital role to play in making RPM happen, Zafar Chaudry, M.D., and Thomas Handler, M.D., both Gartner Inc. analysts, wrote in a report.

Hundreds of millions of people across the United States, Europe and other countries suffer from one or more chronic diseases, and people with chronic diseases cost 3.5 times as much to take care of compared to others, the report said. In the U.S. alone, eight out of 10 older Americans struggle with one or more chronic diseases, the report said, and chronic diseases are responsible for 60% of deaths worldwide.

In terms of benefits, RPM:

  • Improves patient health outcomes and quality of life
  • Prevents emergencies and readmissions
  • Reduces hospital stays and decreases readmissions
  • Offers the ability to monitor patients in their own homes
  • Provides real-time data

Although CMS is pushing for healthcare organizations to adopt RPM—the agency penalizes hospitals if readmissions increase— there is still resistance; an issue that CIOs need to address.

The obstacles CIOs face

According to Gartner’s report, many healthcare providers and clinicians are uncertain whether RPM would actually save them money because the cost of devices remains high, and there is a lack of evidence to support clinical efficacy and cost savings.

“Many clinicians resist incorporating telemedicine technology into their practices because they do not wish to be dependent on this technology (and the failures associated with it), are already overworked, simply do not want to train on the equipment … are uncertain as to how they will be reimbursed to provide telemedicine services,” and because the adoption of RPM would alter clinicians’ workflow, the report said.

Gartner warns CIOs that physicians and clinicians may assume that RPM platforms will result in an increased workload, which, according to Gartner, is not true.

Another issue CIOs face in order to make RPM happen is the lack of interoperability with electronic health record (EHR) platforms. This “can create transient datasets that reside outside of the EHR in the RPM vendor’s cloud,” the report said.

Recommendations for CIOs

When it comes to furthering RPM initiatives within the healthcare organization, Chaudry and Handler advise CIOs to make sure they include key stakeholders like clinical staff, senior management, patients and IT, in the process. CIOs are encouraged to have these stakeholders help determine what is considered a success and what is not. Clinicians should also be looped in and play a part in deciding which specialties would be best suited for RPM initiatives and which would not, the report said.

CIOs should also develop plans to not only help educate and train their patients and clinicians in the rationale for the use of RPM technology, the report said, but CIOs should also develop plans to pilot RPM technology. Chaudry and Handler advise that CIOs do this by:

  • Defining the scope
  • Setting objectives
  • Setting the terms of reference
  • Developing communication plans
  • Exploring information governance issues

The report also advises that CIOs make sure the technology they decide to use for RPM is reliable, compatible, cost-effective, easy to use, that they have the technical staff available to ensure reliability, and that the RPM technology can be supported in the patient’s home or care location.

When it comes to data collected and captured, CIOs should work closely with clinicians and RPM vendors to make sure the data collected has clinical relevance, the report said. After that, CIOs should then make sure that data is interoperable and sent to the patient’s EHR. In the same vein, CIOs should also be prepared to secure data and mitigate risk. If data storage falls outside the healthcare organization– whether in a cloud service or in a vendor’s privately owned storage resource– CIOs should know that “data encryption in transit and at rest is a basic expectation,” the report said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Kristen Lee, news writer, or find her on Twitter @Kristen_Lee_34.