Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is poised to change the way healthcare is delivered. Rather than physicians being provided with a limited snapshot into the health of their patients, RPM enables them to monitor health and symptoms continuously, even when the patient has left their office or been discharged after a hospital visit. While many healthcare specialties can benefit from the technology and insight into a patient’s condition that RPM provides, the public health crisis has enabled RPM to demonstrate its effectiveness in delivering wound care and improving health outcomes.
Every year, Medicare estimates that between $28.1 billion and $96.8 million is spent directly on wound care, including non-healing wounds, postoperative wounds, and diabetic foot ulcers (DFS)1. Furthermore, it is predicted that up to 2.5 million seniors may require wound care throughout the pandemic. However, patients in need of wound care primarily overlap with those who are most susceptible to COVID-19 infection: those ages 65 and up, nursing home residents, individuals with heart conditions, severely obese individuals, and individuals with diabetes1.
While seniors are increasingly choosing to age at home, the pandemic has caused issues such as isolation and a reluctance to attend in-person doctor appointments. Without applying technology to these situations, it would be difficult for patients to receive the care needed to properly care for their wounds. When it comes to wound care, telehealth and RPM is positioned to deliver more effective care to patients while they remain in the comfort of their home.
In a recent study, a year-long prevention program for patients with healed diabetic foot ulcers was followed2. In the study group, patients were provided with a foot temperature monitoring mat allowing them to measure their foot temperatures daily while remaining at home. The results showed complete elimination of major amputations and a 52% reduction in all hospital admissions. The patients participating also reduced the recurrence of foot ulcers, emergency room visits, and outpatient visits. The success in this trial of RPM in improving patient outcomes with DFUs will lead to its expanded use in the treatment of diabetes, such as remote glucose monitors and reminders for the patients to take their insulin at prescribed times.
RPM can also be used to care for wounds that are the result of operations or injuries. Before the pandemic, patients would receive help caring for wounds from specialists that would visit nursing homes or from home care agencies during home visits3. However, these patients are still in need of assistance when caring for wounds. Healthcare providers can monitor the condition of a patient’s wound virtually, examining it for signs of infection, changes in dressing, or ointments that may help the healing process. Plus, virtual tools can help providers teach the family members of patients to properly dress the wound when needed.
This enables providers to receive the insight needed to monitor the condition of the wound while avoiding exposing patients to COVID and empowering patients to receive needed, quality care from home. Tools such as RPM will only become more useful as patients undergo elective surgical procedures that they put off during the pandemic. Healthcare providers will be able to more efficiently monitor wound healing progress, changes in symptoms, or any worsening condition that may require immediate care.
RPM in wound care is only one application in which it is seeing success, and its value is being recognized by healthcare agencies and providers across the country. Even before the public health crisis, Medicare had expanded its coverage of RPM, allowing more providers to receive compensation for remotely monitoring patients4. Across its applications, RPM has decreased readmission rates up to 40% and emergency room visits by up to 92%4. As RPM continues to be successfully implemented throughout the healthcare agency, it will change the way care is delivered and how patients expect to be cared for.