Remote Patient Monitoring: Less ER, more peace-of-mind

Three years after the release of a pan-Canadian study about Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) commissioned by Canada Health Infoway (Infoway), Nancy Huyck from Dorchester, Ontario credits the innovation with keeping her away from the emergency room (ER).

“I used to go to the walk-in clinic or the ER at least once a month,” says the 72-year-old grandmother who lives alone with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). “I went six months without setting foot into either once I started monitoring my vitals every day at home.”

The information Nancy captures with the easy-to-use tools is made available securely to her care team, which includes her daughter Cheryl Ford, who is her primary caregiver.

Nancy credits the tools with not only reducing the number of trips she needs to make to the hospital, but with increasing her ability to manage her chronic illness.

“Avoiding a trip to the doctor was an obvious benefit,” she said. “But getting to know my own results has taught me to make changes early on in order to avoid complications down the road, and that has been an added bonus.”

Nancy’s experience with Remote Patient Monitoring comes as no surprise to Michael Green, Infoway’s CEO.

“The use of digital health tools to help patients and caregivers manage chronic illness not only improves the patient experience, it improves outcomes, and helps keep patients like Nancy at home,” he said.

The evidence bears this out.

Connecting Patients with Providers: A Pan-Canadian Study on Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) was commissioned by Infoway to investigate the current state of RPM in Canada and help inform the potential for broader implementation across the country. The study suggests that innovative RPM solutions are transforming the health care delivery model cost-effectively, by bringing care into the home setting, significantly improving the patient experience and reducing emergency department visits and in-patient hospitalizations.

Supporting caregivers such as Cheryl, is another benefit of RPM. She has access to her mother’s records through a secure portal, which allows her to manage her time more efficiently.

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Nancy Huyck (R) and her daughter Cheryl Ford take a break from volunteering at the Back to the Garden Music Festival at Jones Farm in Dorchester, Ontario on August 20, 2017.

“I spend less time wondering how my mom is doing now, because all I have to do is log on and see for myself whenever I want,” she said. “The peace of mind it gives me is great, but the real value is in the changes I’ve noticed in her health since she started using remote patient monitoring tools at home.  Problems are noticed earlier and dealt with before they become more severe.”

The South Central Community Development Corporation, the project’s sponsor, is working with Middlesex-London Emergency Medical Services (MLEMS) and 10 other community paramedic services across Ontario to provide the Community Paramedic Remote Patient Monitoring (CPRPM) program.

The digital health tools they place in the homes of patients enable them to measure their vitals including blood pressure, weight and oxygen levels. Paramedics, who intervene proactively when they note a change in an individual’s health status, monitor the information on an ongoing basis. The goal is to keep patients like Nancy as well as possible so they can remain in their homes, and out of the hospital. It is also an innovative way to provide real value to caregivers and loved ones.

According to Rick Whittaker, CPRPM Project Lead, the goal is being achieved. Patients like Nancy are experiencing a decrease in the need to go to the emergency department or walk-in clinics.

“The most expensive place to deliver health care is in the hospital, where few patients want to be, while the least costly place to provide care is in the home, where most patients want to be,” said Whittaker.  “If the goal is to reduce health care expenses and improve the patient experience, I think investing in remote patient monitoring is a sure bet.”

When Nancy enrolled in the program, a MLEMS paramedic came to her home to teach her how to use the tools, and ever since, she has been measuring and transmitting her blood pressure, weight and oxygen levels every day. Readings that require follow-up are flagged, and a secure portal provides Cheryl and the rest of Nancy’s care team with up-to-date results.

“One day, mom received a call from the paramedic when her blood pressure was higher than usual,” said Cheryl. “He made an in-home visit to see her, and decided to get in touch with her doctor and they worked together to resolve the issue before I even knew there was a problem.”

Green believes providing patients and caregivers like Nancy and Cheryl with digital health tools is key to improving access, patient outcomes and health system efficiencies.

“We can help reduce wait times in the emergency department for everyone by creating innovative ways to support patients like Nancy, so they can avoid going there in the first place,” said Green.

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