Remote patient monitoring (RPM) has become a powerful tool for healthcare providers, offering an effective system of patient care and new opportunities for reimbursement, among other benefits. Yet, as we’ve recently outlined, RPM is much more than a standalone tool. It also enables many other important aspects of patient care, including playing a key role in hospital-at-home programs.
What is hospital-at-home, and why is it important?
Trademarked two decades ago by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, what was originally known as Hospital at Home® was initially meant a means of providing more effective options of care to high-risk seniors by hospitalizing them directly in their homes. Doing so helped reduce the risk being exposed to potentially dangerous infections, as well as accommodating those who simply refuse to go to a hospital. Today, hospital-at-home is used more broadly, generally describing patients of all types who receive hospital-level care in their home or place of residences.
As opposed to focusing on a specific, targeted aspect of care — for instance, remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) — HaH is designed to serve as a full substitute for acute hospital care. Delivered both remotely through technology and in-person with home visits, and powered by 24/7 clinical service in the backend, hospital-at-home programs provide healthcare organizations with a powerful tool to help defray the costs and operational requirements of long hospital stays.
And it’s the rapid innovation of telehealth technology like RPM in recent years that’s made so many hospital-at-home programs possible. Using a sophisticated combination of remote monitoring devices and virtual communications tools, organizations can now offer these programs to more patients than ever before.
In case you missed it: Defining RPM, telehealth and other key digital care terms
How RPM helps drive hospital-at-home
Like chronic care management (CCM) and the other models of care that it helps to support, RPM provides an important technological foundation for enabling hospital-at-home (HaH) visits. In many cases, it’s the most essential tool for successfully transferring hospital care to the home, including the continuum of medical devices and secure EHR integration that can serve as an inpatient monitoring system.
To meet the standards of hospital-at-home care — and to most effectively treat at-risk patients — the RPM devices used must be of the highest, hospital-grade quality. In the past, devices of this caliber were prohibitively expensive for many facilities. But today, high-quality RPM devices aren’t just widely available, but affordable and accessible to more patients and providers than ever before.
Related: From BP monitors to patient weight scales, get an introduction to today’s standard RPM devices here.
In addition to affordable, these devices need to be patient-friendly, so people are engaged and not intimidated by the tools they use to monitor their health each day. And for best results, these devices must also be able to capture patient vitals on a continuous or semi-continuous basis, and then transmit that data seamlessly and securely to the provider’s EHR system.
The benefits of RPM-powered hospital-at-home programs
With all of these components in place, patients can be monitored just as effectively in their residences as they would be at home — perhaps even more so in some cases, as fewer clinicians are required to oversee their care. At a time when clinical staffing shortages are hitting healthcare hard and post-acute facilities even harder, that’s a serious benefit to many organizations.
But it’s far from the only benefit to providers. Leveraging RPM in this way also helps facilities meet increasing patient demand for hospital-grade at-home care. So strong is this demand that home care facilities are seeing “a greater demand for our services than what we can provide,” as Johns Hopkins Home Care Group President and CEO Mary Gibbons Myers told Home Health Care News.
The pandemic certainly helped fuel this surge in demand for at-home care, particularly with the Acute Hospital Care At Home program implemented by CMS in 2020. Designed to help free up bed space and reduce infection risk during the pandemic, the initiative “provides a hospital diagnosis-related group payment for the duration of the public health emergency to hospitals that provide Hospital at Home (HaH) care,” as it was recently described at Health Affairs.
With the PHE extended, the CMS program remains in place, further encouraging HaH programs. And as patient demand continues to hold steady, the inability of many home care providers to meet it is creating opportunities for hospital groups and other healthcare organizations to do so by extending their services by offering hospital-at-home visits.
In addition to opening new lines of services, RPM-powered hospital-at-home programs can also help healthcare organizations more effectively cope with a number of other persistent industry challenges. At a time when on-site staff is at a premium and bed space sometimes limited, HaH programs can help facilities free up bed capacity by allowing more patients to be treated at home — and just as effectively.
Treating more patients at home also helps reduce infection risks in hospitals. Beyond the obvious benefit to managing crises like the recent pandemic, this can also help organizations reduce hospital-acquired infections in general. Also called HAIs, these incidents cost the United States medical industry at least $28.4 billion per year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Finally, leveraging RPM solutions to implement hospital-at-home programs also gives healthcare organizations the power to boost outcomes, and to do more with less labor. Doctors and their care teams can more effectively monitor more patients from a central platform, helping them to detect problems earlier and apply interventions accordingly. And thanks to the power of RPM technology to not only gather but organize and prioritize data, they can do so with fewer workers than before.