The past year and a half has redefined the healthcare industry. Hospital systems and practices were forced to adapt to a global pandemic while offering chronic or emergency care. The result has been a new medical world: one with expanded telehealth, nurses triaging patient symptoms over the phone, and remote patient monitoring devices tracking vitals and offering an advanced warning against life-threatening conditions.
Yet even when you consider these advancements in care and our current vaccine rollout, the loosening of COVID restrictions at the state and federal levels has prompted a few questions:
- What should these same hospitals and doctors’ offices prepare as their patients return to office evaluations?
- How has patient behavior changed?
- What are the best technologies available for doctors to manage patient care during this transition?
For answers, we need to dive a little deeper into telehealth, nurse triage, and remote patient monitoring.
Many patients have embraced telehealth as a viable alternative to in-person treatment. From answering simple medical-related questions to addressing the common cold to psychologist sessions, everything is now available online, and the consensus among patients is that these visits are saving them time and money. In the current landscape, providers will need to continue defining when digital appointments are appropriate and offer guidelines to educate patients on their pros, cons, and limitations of care. Likewise, nurses will continue to play an invaluable role in executing these guidelines, just as they did throughout the changing needs of the pandemic.
In fact, telephone nurse triage is one area that has already taken steps to address the future of telehealth. Doctors Barton Schmitt and David Thompson have released new triage protocols for nurses to help them evaluate which patient callers are eligible for remote appointments. These add to the host of other protocols that have become the gold standard in nurse triage care, several of which our hospitals began utilizing during the onset of the pandemic. If you don’t use them currently, consider a free 30-day trial for your staff. We’ve found them to be highly beneficial in a time when many callers aren’t sure about the urgency of their symptoms, whether they’ve contracted COVID, or whether they should go to the ER. These protocols allow nurses to appropriately document all calls and ensure a consistent standard of care for all callers.
To that end, as we approach the fall and winter seasons — and with them, cold and flu — nurses anticipate that they will continue to triage patients by phone to determine the best path of care to address patient symptoms. If your team needs help setting up these protocols, TriageLogic offers clinical trainers who can implement them and educate your nurses on their application. The software is easy to use, and offices can be up and running within days. (For an example, read this case study on protocol software at Baptist Hospital in Jacksonville, FL.)
Based on the current trends, remote care appears to be the way of the future. If that is the case, remote patient monitoring (RPM) will undoubtedly be a part of it. According to a new report by McKinsey & Company, remote care will account for roughly $250 billion (or 20 percent) of what Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial insurers spend on outpatient, office, and home health visits in the near term. RPM devices track the essential vital signs of a patient, including heart rate, oxygen saturation, and glucose levels, and share them in real-time with healthcare providers. This allows doctors to intervene when they notice readings that could indicate a more serious underlying condition, ultimately decreasing hospitalization, morbidity, and mortality. Not only does this benefit patients, but CMS has approved reimbursement of up to $120 per patient per month for providers to utilize these devices and monitor them. TriageLogic is already involved with helping doctors implement RPM: first, by meeting with device companies; then, by setting up a plan for patient care; and finally, by providing clinical and non-clinical staff to monitor device data and contact patients as needed.
While there are more areas of healthcare that are changing, these are certainly among the most relevant. As we spend these summer months taking stock of the past year and preparing for fall, it’s essential to consider how healthcare needs will continue to evolve. TriageLogic aims to stay ahead of those trends and offer organizations like yours a trusted solution for engaging with patients and providing them with the best possible quality of care.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about how TriageLogic can help you, please contact us here.
Dr. Charu Raheja