Remote Patient Monitoring for Discharging Hospital Patients Safely

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) allows patients to return to the comfort of their home faster while receiving the care and medical oversight they need to maintain and attend to their health. And the medical field is quickly learning that RPM has many benefits outside of comfort and freedom for the patient.

RPM also means lower costs, better outcomes, and improved access to care in a way the industry could not imagine 10 years ago.

Although caring for medical needs within a hospital setting can be required based on a patient’s ailments or acute care needs, returning them home safely should always be the goal. Until recently, clinicians were hesitant to discharge them until the patient had all the right vitals and numbers for several hours or even days.

Remote patient monitoring devices give clinicians the flexibility to continue monitoring vitals while providing patients the comforts of home and a semblance of normalcy.

Benefits of Remote Patient Care When Moving from Inpatient to Outpatient Care

Inpatient care restricts patients to a location and activities far outside their everyday routines. They aren’t making food choices for themselves, engaging in their favorite hobbies, or spending time with friends and family as they can at home.

Allowing patients the freedom to return to their normal way of life while receiving remote care and clinical monitoring can help them recover safely and completely by caring for the whole body, including the patient’s mental health.

Remote patient monitoring companies provide patients and health care professionals these benefits when filling the gap between inpatient and outpatient care.

  • Support for patient safety: Many patients want to be discharged and return home as quickly as possible, but medical professionals are tasked with ensuring that the patient is medically ready for that transition. RPM can aid in speeding up that process because clinician knows they can continue to monitor the patient at a distance. RPM alerts clinicians when it’s time to see a patient and review their health due to elevated vitals or other concerning information.
  • Elevate the quality of care: At discharge, medical professionals review crucial health information with the patient and provide instructions about how to take care of themselves at home. But this is generally loads of information for a patient at a vulnerable and overwhelming time. RPM tools allow medical professionals to assign learning modules and education for the patient to take home and review at their leisure. And if they forget, they can reference the materials with a few clicks within their patient portal.
  • One-on-one communication with providers: If a patient has a question or is unsure about something, they can message the provider or set up a telehealth session to get answers instead of searching the internet for generic information. That fast access to the provider can have an immense impact on patient outcomes by facilitating constant and open communication between patient and provider.
  • Lower costs: Keeping patients in an inpatient setting is incredibly expensive. Round-the-clock care puts strains on medical providers, health plans and the availability of inpatient resources for those who need it the most. By allowing patients to return home and continue their care remotely, the healthcare system saves money and resources to devote to acute care situations.
  • Better patient experiences: Inpatient care can put stress on patients and their families. And when a patient is stressed, they can’t heal and recover as well. The more stressed the patient is about their healthcare experience, the less likely they are to reach out about future concerns, which puts them at risk for more acute care scenarios. Improving patient experiences can give them a better view of inpatient care to improve outcomes and clinical relationships.

Examples of How to Use RPM When Going from Inpatient to Outpatient Care

RPM is a useful tool in helping reduce readmissions and transition patients into outpatient care in a variety of scenarios. Here are some examples of ways providers use RPM to transition high-risk patients effectively.

Chronic Disease Patients

Patients with chronic diseases often face inpatient visits to treat changes in their health. But remote patient monitoring can help get them back on track while avoiding readmissions. And for those who struggle with traveling to reach that medical care, these patients can continue their care at home.

The demand for caring for chronic diseases remotely continues to grow. In 2019, Medicare patients billed 840,000 telehealth visits. By December 2021, that number rose to 52.7 million, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Some examples of chronic diseases that RPM can help treat include:

  • Heart conditions
  • Sleep apnea
  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Diabetes
Instead of keeping these patients in the hospital, healthcare providers can offer remote patient monitoring devices, including:

  • Heart monitors
  • Monitors for dementia and Parkinson’s
  • Breathing apparatuses
  • Apnea monitors

These at-home devices can provide the same vitals and information as what clinicians use in inpatient settings.

Remote Mental Health Monitoring

Treating mental health is just as important as treating physical health. Using digital health tools can help clinicians monitor patient mental health needs. Modern RPM uses a variety of self-reporting tools that help patients communicate with healthcare providers. Describing how activities impact mood throughout the day can offer greater insights than short in-person visits with a healthcare professional.

Patients can check in about their mood and mental health at any time while it’s fresh in their minds. And they can schedule telehealth visits with a few clicks to get care when they need it instead of waiting until their next scheduled in-person visit. That ongoing care can help providers recognize patterns and treat patients when required to prevent inpatient scenarios.

COVID-19 and Other Inpatient Capacity Scenarios

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated what can happen when hospitals reach capacity while more patients need care. With more than 3.8 million COVID cases in the U.S. just months into the pandemic, hospitals sought to monitor patients with mild to moderate symptoms while keeping severe patients in the hospital.

Safe and timely discharge of patients was essential to free up space for those still coming in with symptoms. In New York, medical teams were creating discharge protocols and providing patients with pulse oximeters and telehealth follow-up procedures to meet the ever-growing need of the patient population.

Creating escalation procedures based on vital sign triggers helped clinicians determine when a patient needed to return to inpatient care. With so many patients to care for, automation using remote patient monitoring devices was essential because clinicians did not have time to monitor all patients' vitals manually.

Once in place, the RPM protocols and automations helped reduce readmissions and ensure that inpatient care was reserved for those who couldn’t recover at home. The pandemic thrust telehealth services forward rapidly. By February 2021, patients were 38 times more likely to use telehealth than in 2019.

Remote patient monitoring can impact a variety of patients and care scenarios. Read AMC Health's case studies to learn more about how and when to use RPM.