Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is one of the most powerful tools in the bariatric practitioner’s toolkit.
A 2021 BMJ Open systematic review of 91 studies found that RPM reduced emergency presentations, hospital admissions, and length of stay for all disease conditions.
Another, bariatric-specific systematic review indicates that eHealth interventions – including remote self-monitoring and reporting – were equally or more effective than conventional care for patients who were scheduled for or have had weight loss surgery.
However, RPM is only effective if you (and your patients) do it right.
Here are a few tips on making the most of remote patient monitoring during the preoperative phase – and beyond.
- Remote patient monitoring leverages modern technologies to track, capture, and transmit patient health data to healthcare providers.
- Examples include devices that measure physiological functions, such as digital scales, blood glucose monitors, and blood pressure cuffs, as well as automation solutions which allow patients to self-monitor and report on symptoms, pain levels, and more.
- A well-thought-out RPM program can improve access to preoperative care, lower cancellation rates, reduce costs, and increase surgical volumes.
First Things First: What Is Remote Patient Monitoring?
Remote patient monitoring involves the use of modern technologies to electronically track, capture, and transmit patient health data to healthcare providers for assessment, recommendations, and, where necessary, interventions.
This includes devices that measure physiological functions, as well as self-reporting on symptoms, pain levels, compliance with treatment plans, patient satisfaction, and more.
In contrast to traditional patient monitoring, RPM takes place in the patient’s home, or wherever the patient is, instead of healthcare facilities.
Note that, like telemedicine, RPM is a subset of but not equivalent to telehealth. Distinguishing between the three is important for billing and reimbursement purposes.
Popular Remote Patient Monitoring Technologies
These RPM technologies have gained considerable traction and hold a lot of promise for the bariatric community:
- Digital scales: Patients and care teams can leverage remote weight monitoring both pre- and post-surgery. Smart scales can motivate patients to lose the weight required to qualify for surgery and track their progress afterward, as well as provide critical information to health teams to ensure that the patient is progressing appropriately.
- Blood glucose monitors: Monitoring blood glucose levels is critical for bariatric patients with diabetes, especially considering that hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia can be asymptomatic. The numbers speak for themselves. An RPM program at Leon Medical Centers in South Florida helped lower A1c under 9% for 84% of 225 high-risk patients.
- Blood pressure monitors: Obesity is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease. The good news is that remote blood pressure monitors can help improve hypertension management. The American Heart Association supports the use of RPM and notes it is more effective at reducing blood pressure than both usual care and self-monitoring.
- Personalized guided automation software: guided automation platforms provide patients with step by step instructions, education, assessments, and other activities through the bariatric surgery process. This may include self-monitoring and reporting as well as pre- and postoperative education, insurance information, automatic reminders, electronic consult requests, and more.
Benefits of RPM for Weight Loss Surgery Candidates
Here are just some of the benefits of remote patient monitoring in preoperative contexts:
Lower Surgery Cancellation Rates
Many eligible patients seeking bariatric surgery end up not receiving the procedure. As many as 50% of cancellations are due to patient-related reasons, such as failing to meet the preoperative weight loss requirements or not following through with treatment due to fear of complications and side effects.
By leveraging RPM technologies, you can ensure that more patients receive the treatment they need. This also translates into increased surgical volumes and revenue for your practice.
For instance, digital scales can reduce cancellation rates by empowering patients to track their weight loss, which can help them stay motivated and accountable. Guided automation platforms also have an important role to play by providing preoperative education, including:
- Insurance and surgery eligibility information
- Guidance on diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes
- Information about potential side effects, complications, and what patients can do to increase their chances of optimal surgical outcomes
Improved Access to Care
RPM programs can improve preoperative care for surgery candidates who have difficulty accessing it due to long travel times, high travel costs, busy schedules, or healthcare staff shortages.
Personalized Preoperative Care
Remote patient monitoring technologies generate a wealth of highly personalized, real-time data. You can use it to fine-tune customized treatment plans, carry out timely interventions when necessary, and improve satisfaction rates.
Reduced Costs and Higher Surgical Revenue
Thanks to functionalities such as remote vitals monitoring, automated eligibility checks, streamlined scheduling, and automated pre-surgical activity completion checklists, you and your team get to spend less time on admin.
These features help save money and resources and free you up to dedicate more time to higher-impact work such as revenue generation, patient care, and outreach. As a result, you can service more patients and improve your bottom line without increasing your headcount.
More Empowered Patients
Perhaps the greatest benefit of RPM technologies is that they improve patient enablement and patient preparedness. By providing surgery candidates with vetted health information and empowering them to measure and report their weight loss progress and other key metrics, you put them in control of their preoperative journeys. This engagement is key to building trust, creating partnerships with healthcare providers, and ensuring optimal surgical outcomes.
How to Implement a Successful RPM Program
To make the most out of your RPM program, consider the following steps:
1. Explain Remote Patient Monitoring to Your Patients
Make sure patients understand the concept of RPM, how it works, and what you expect from them. Some may have heard of it, others may not be familiar with it at all, and many may confuse it with telehealth or telemedicine.
2. Highlight the Benefits of the Program
The more patients are clear on the value of RPM – from reducing their costs and ensuring better surgical outcomes to keeping them healthier in the long term – the more likely they are to take an active part in their care.
3. Provide Clear Instructions on Setup and Usage
Whether you use RPM devices, personalized care automation software, or both, you want to make sure that surgery candidates know how to set them up, how to use them, and where to seek technical assistance.
4. Deliver RPM Education via Multiple Channels
Patients have different needs, so you should provide RPM support and education via multiple communication channels, including:
- In person
- Over the phone
- On your practice website
- Via videoconference
- By post, email, or text messages
Ready to Experience the Benefits of Guided Automation?
Wellbe’s personalized automation platform will enable your patients to be more prepared and feel more confident about bariatric surgery.
Enable your patients and help them access the treatment they need.