The COVID-19 pandemic has given remote patient monitoring (RPM) the opportunity to shine as an effective tool for socialization to help keep isolated patients healthy— mentally and physically. Using telehealth and mHealth technology, Lewiston-based Androscoggin Home Healthcare & Hospice has been monitoring patients at home for more than two decades. But in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic, the role of the RPM platform has become much more crucial.
Clinical outcomes can be significantly enhanced by RPM, especially most recently. The pandemic forced people to isolate themselves at home, preventing them from having their usual avenues for structured social interaction and support with family and friends in their communities. Denial of these habitual stress-relievers is closely associated with notable increases in behavioral disorders such as anxiety and depression, along with a full array of stress-induced exacerbations of chemical dependencies, eating disorders, gambling, and other disorders. To help counteract the negative effects of social isolation, Androscoggin Home Healthcare & Hospice’s novel program, launched via its RPM platform, connects lonely patients with volunteers to share any concerns.
The Androscoggin RPM platform, known as AndroPeerConnects, forges connections and interactions between volunteers and patients via telehealth. The program also helps providers monitor if patients are suffering from loneliness.
What Inspired the Launch of the AndroPeerConnects Program?
Since COVID-19, the behavior of patients has undergone a sea-change. Patients who wanted to communicate with their nurses, even after all other data had been obtained, prompted the service’s launch. The Androscoggin report states that patients appreciate and look forward to virtual encounters.
How are the Volunteers Chosen?
The organization screens volunteers and matches them with patients with similar interests. Then the volunteers check in periodically, or whenever needed to ensure that the patients are okay. Furthermore, the majority of the designated volunteers are retired. Participating in the service reportedly provides these volunteers with a sense of accomplishment. With COVID-19, the telehealth industry was pushed towards developing wireless devices and passive monitoring systems that could allow monitoring to occur without interfering with daily activities. Moreover, in response to the growing use of RPM and similar health platforms offered by healthcare providers – particularly those in the home health field, programs like AndroPeerConnects are appearing all over the country.
Telehealth and mHealth technology are becoming more sophisticated and more economical. They are being used to collect information about the patient’s home environment and lifestyle that affect healthcare outcomes. Although the program has slowly gained traction, it is plagued by a lack of resources. Androscoggin has a few mHealth-enabled tablets and recently secured a grant to purchase more. As with every remote patient monitoring program, reimbursements are very limited.
The Way Forward for Remote Patient Monitoring
Whether it’s COVID-19 patients, patients with chronic conditions, or patients receiving home health and hospice care, RPM platforms will demonstrate their worth over time when physicians use them to address the requirements of specific patient populations.
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