Advancing technology, reimbursement changes, increased device connection capabilities, and the constraints of a finite number of clinicians are collectively contributing to a shift in patient care from brick and mortar facilities into the patient’s home. Remote monitoring—or telehealth or telemedicine—is particularly relevant for managing ongoing or chronic illnesses because it allows caregivers to oversee those patients without recurring face-to-face appointments. The question facing many decision makers in the industry, is how much a remote monitoring program costs and what the returns on investment (ROI) might be.
Partners HealthCare is one organization that has been able to initiate successful remote monitoring and The Academy recently spoke with Dr. Kamal Jethwani, the senior director of innovation for Partners Connected Health about the program and cost-related factors. If implemented mindfully, remote monitoring is many times a low-cost method of overseeing a patient’s health condition, he says.
Some programs, like a remote weight management plan, can function relying solely on a weight scale or a Fitbit, items many patients already have in their homes. Other solutions can be higher tech. For example, Partners HealthCare uses an insertable thermometer device to continually monitor internal temperatures for patients trying to conceive. In his role of Senior Director of Innovation, Dr. Jethwani says he and his peers evaluate new technology almost daily. It is important to vet solutions and devices that address a clearly defined service need, rather than investing for the sake of investing, he says.
“One of the things we start off with is what the need is,” Dr. Jethwani says. “Organizations need to make sure that whatever they’re doing with digital health, it’s not about the technology, but it’s about the service we’re offering.”
In terms of ROI, organizations may look at readmission rate and bed occupancy considerations. Remote monitoring for a patient with, for example, congestive heart failure can help keep them from being readmitted after care. This not only prevents the hospital from having to absorb the readmission costs, but also frees up bed space for a high-revenue case, like a joint replacement surgery.
“I think the basic rule of thumb is that the return from some of these programs far outweigh the cost in most circumstances,” Dr. Jethwani says. “I always advise organizations start off with the return equation and then get the cost.”
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