Top 4 Challenges of Monitoring Patients Remotely

Remote patient monitoring is a modern method of monitoring and assessing patient conditions through the use of technology. With its rise in popularity in recent years, remote patient monitoring has become a routine part of care delivery for healthcare providers around the world thanks to its convenience and effectiveness.

Through telehealth platforms that facilitate this type of patient monitoring, healthcare providers can conveniently check patients’ vital signs, detect early warning signs of worsening symptoms, and much more. Although these systems can benefit everyone who uses them, including care teams and their patients, there are a few challenges that can sometimes get in the way of successful remote patient monitoring.

Female doctor virtually consulting patient

Biggest Challenges of Remote Patient Monitoring

There is no question when it comes to the effectiveness of remote patient monitoring on enhanced efficiency and improved patient outcomes when done correctly. Through integrated telehealth platforms with remote patient monitoring features, patients are able to monitor themselves and input their health-related data into their platform regularly. Subsequently, healthcare providers can effortlessly complete care tasks such as making changes to care plans, providing feedback on a patient’s progress, or requesting an in-person appointment for further monitoring if the need arises.

While these features can bring simplicity to complex healthcare organizations, traditional remote patient monitoring equipment can oftentimes cause challenges for healthcare organizations. This blog will cover some of the main challenges healthcare providers face when utilizing traditional remote patient monitoring systems, and how to alleviate these.

Implementation and Training Staff

A common challenge faced by healthcare organizations that have utilized telemedicine tools such as remote patient monitoring is effectively implementing these systems and training staff. With traditional remote monitoring systems that require staff to manage tedious tasks, it can take excessive time to train them on all components. Additionally, most traditional remote patient monitoring systems do not have automated features that can assign tasks to the care team and deliver automated updates to patients. This can ultimately hinder progress when implementing a remote patient monitoring system and lead to reduced efficiency in healthcare organizations.

Although this can be an issue, organizations can overcome it by opting for fully integrated remote patient management systems. By ensuring the remote patient monitoring tool your healthcare organization uses has integrated features such as care plan management and clinical workflows, you can further reduce the need for excessive staff training and improve efficiency. Unlike traditional remote patient monitoring systems, integrated remote patient management systems such as the aTouchAway™, can interpret patient data and automatically assign tasks to your patient’s care team. Thus, staff will not need to spend excess time analyzing data and manually following a process.

Patient Technology Barriers

Patient on call with doctor

As the majority of patients have little-to-no experience using healthcare monitoring equipment on their own, and many individuals are not fully literate in the latest technology, it is common for them to face challenges early on. When it comes to traditional remote patient monitoring, patients can face difficulties connecting with their care team or accessing resources if they are having troubles with their monitoring equipment.

While these barriers can be difficult to overcome for some patients, healthcare providers can help make the transition to remote patient monitoring easier by providing a user-friendly platform that is easy to understand and empowers patients to take action on their healthcare needs. With the correct integrated remote patient monitoring platforms, patients have the necessary resources to self-educate, which can give them the confidence to use their remote monitoring equipment effectively. Additionally, integrated platforms allow patients to connect with their care team in real-time if they have technology-related questions, which can further diminish this barrier.

Determining Which Patients Should Be Monitored Remotely

Two doctors reviewing patient files

Over the last year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, most people have witnessed or experienced the negative impacts of reduced in-person social interactions. Unfortunately for many with chronic health conditions, being able to go out and socialize with others in any setting can be a rare occurrence, even when COVID restrictions are lifted. Isolation and prolonged loneliness have been shown to increase patients’ risks of developing a number of physical and mentalhealth issues.

To meet the needs of these patients, the remote monitoring platform you use should offer customized care plans with communication tools such as video conferencing to ensure they are receiving adequate care while staying connected with their care team. Healthcare organizations can also reduce the possibility of severe negative impacts from isolation by opting for fully integrated remote patient management systems. Fortunately, remote patient management systems offer features that can detect the need for in-person care early on. By taking a proactive approach to patient care with remote patient management systems, healthcare staff can be alerted when patients show signs of requiring in-person care and take the necessary actions to adjust their care methods.

Can Take Time for Patients and Staff To Adjust

In the early days of implementing a remote patient monitoring system in your healthcare organization, you may need to spend additional time reviewing staff and patient progress. Some patients may require help with their remote patient monitoring equipment or experience technical difficulties when using the telehealth platform. This can slightly increase the time needed for caring for each patient, which can add to wait times and other time-sensitive challenges if not managed properly.

Although a learning curve for staff and patients is inevitable, healthcare organizations can reduce adjustment time by choosing a system that provides appropriate learning resources to patients and simplifies data for healthcare professionals. With remote patient management systems, healthcare staff need to interpret far less patient data as they would with traditional remote monitoring systems. Alternatively, patients can perform self-examination or simply input their data, and the remote patient management system will forward it to their care team and advise them if actions are required. Once healthcare staff and patients become more familiar with the process of remote patient management, healthcare staff can ultimately spend less time on tedious tasks and more time treating patients.

Overcoming Remote Patient Monitoring Challenges With an Effective Remote Patient Management System

Two doctors reviewing information in hospital

Telehealth tools such as remote patient monitoring are continuing to improve efficiency within healthcare organizations and helping patients receive the care they need, from wherever they may be. Although there are several challenges that can have an impact on the overall success of remote patient monitoring activities, there are plenty of ways to overcome them. By utilizing advanced telehealth tools such as remote patient management that help patients and their care teams stay fully connected, you can drastically improve efficiency within your healthcare organization and ensure patients are able to continue benefiting from remote care.

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COPD Education – Onboarding

Objective

To complete a thorough needs assessment / initial evaluation for a COPD patient of an outpatient clinic

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT, the Physician could also be the educator)

Timelines
One 60-90 min session with the Educator

Description
  • This protocol should be established for all COPD patients from a given clinic, independently of whether they are new patients or they are known to the clinic. This protocol is the basis to engage the patient into other protocols such as education, exacerbation follow-up, etc.
  • We need to identify patient goals/concerns to guide the interventions
  • A thorough evaluation is carried on, with the objective of understanding where the patient is on their disease journey and follow-up treatable traits: dyspnea, exacerbation or dyspnea and exacerbation.
  • It includes the use of objective questionnaires such as the mMRC, CAT, HADS, Frailty Scale, etc.
  • Identify if the patient needs to be referred to other resources (e.g. Physiotherapist, social worker, occupational therapist)
  • Once Onboarding is completed, the patient continues to the COPD Education workflow
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COPD Education – Continuous Maintenance

Objective 

To cover in depth all the necessary elements of self-management education as per the LWWCOPD, with priorities based on patient goals and identified treatable traits

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT or Physician)

Timelines
A number of “Core” educational modules have been identified which cover the basic COPD education from the LWWCOPD program. Additionally, optional modules can be used to respond to patient needs. The timeline (frequency, number of modules to be covered at a given education session) is fully customizable, although we recommend to have education sessions every 2-weeks during the “active” phase of education. Once this is completed, the patient continues to the Maintenance Mode (see below).

Description
  • Launched at the onboarding protocol
  • Provide basic overview of COPD self-management based on LWWCOPD (medication adherence, inhaler techniques, PLB technique & energy conservation) up to the development of an Action plan for early exacerbation recognition and management.
  • Prioritize self-learning by the patient (e.g. watching videos, reading educational materials, completing homework) in addition to live sessions with the Educator. Educational materials are sent to the patient directly via the platform, and become the patient’s own library. The Educator can customize which “homework” the patient receives.
  • Educators have access to “User guides” to standardise their educational intervention. These user guides include: objectives, interventions, suggested questions, evaluation of self-efficacy, and learning contracts for each module.
  • Once the core education is completed, the patient can continue to the Respiratory Status Follow-up Workflow (run in parallel)

The Maintenance Mode
  • As soon as the maintenance mode is engaged, the frequency of visits Educator/Patient is reduced to once every 6 months.
  • During the Maintenance Mode sessions, the educator has access to all the education modules and can choose any piece of content that needs to covered with the patient. 
  • A streamlined evaluation (similar to the initial eval.) is done during each “maintenance” visit to identify any substantial changes on the patient’s needs that will require some adjustment. The patient could come back to an “active” education mode (more frequent education sessions, e.g. every 2 weeks).
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COPD Respiratory Status Follow-up

Objective

Monitoring of stable patients from a clinic in order to identify early any aggravation of symptoms (exacerbation) and implement an action plan

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT or Physician)

Timelines
Scheduled regular automated follow-up to the patient symptoms. Intensity/Frequency can be adjusted by the Educator depending on patient needs (e.g. daily, every week, etc.). Ongoing through the year.

Description
  • Launch: Patients who have completed the Core Educational including setting-up an action plan.
  • Regular automated questions allow to identify any change in patient’s symptoms and severity.
  • If an exacerbation is detected the patient gets a reminder to engage their self-management strategies while waiting for the Educator to call back.
  • An alarm is generated for the Educator, so they immediately call back the patient. At this call they will evaluate any further intervention required and schedule additional follow-up.
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