Remote vital sign monitoring is a must-have for frontline healthcare workers

On the cusp of flu season, some hospitals are already reporting severe staff shortages, as concerns loom ahead of flu season this fall. One advantage that healthcare professionals have however is “2020 hindsight;” taking key learnings from challenges that plagued the industry when the pandemic first appeared last year. Pain points included significant burnout, lack of communication and financial strain. Now with a clear line of sight at the potholes ahead, healthcare workers and their leaders can look to tools such as remote vital sign monitoring, to better navigate the predicted storm.

Remote vital sign monitoring as an aid for burnout
One silver lining of the Covid-19 pandemic was the broader adoption of digital health technology to support telehealth visits, to better meet both patient and provider needs. A positive side effect of this delivery of care was the ability to minimize the burden on staff due to limited in-patient visits. Even before Covid-19, relationships between healthcare organizations and their workers were strained by years of cost-cutting, which trimmed staffing levels, supplies and space to the bone. Enabling another channel for patients and providers to interact outside of the office allows a much-needed cushion of time and space. While it may seem minimal, in healthcare, every minute makes a difference.

Telehealth has been especially beneficial in rural settings that have wrestled with a shortage of health professionals for years, as these regions often face challenges in maintaining an adequate health workforce. The option to leverage telehealth has helped alleviate the strain on providers to meet the rising patient demand while still maintaining continuity in preventive and routine care, as well as ongoing treatment for such chronic conditions.

When fighting a virus that so closely mirrors many of the symptoms associated with the common cold and seasonal flu, the ability to better determine vital sign measurements, in combination with other symptom assessments – such as fever, coughing or a sore-throat – can drastically elevate the information available to health professionals. The provider can then evaluate whether a patient should seek in-person medical attention or remain safely at home to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus.

Advancing Healthcare / Care Communication
The pandemic has also compounded communication challenges already faced by healthcare systems and staff; this includes conveying health information to the public, as well as clinical communication with individual patients and families.  Digital health tools can enhance interactions among providers, patients and even their caregivers; and increased communication often leads to better care and patient outcomes.

AI-powered remote vital sign monitoring tools available today take telehealth visits beyond just a video call, and arms nurses and doctors with a real-time look at how vitals are performing. Readings such as heart rate, oxygen saturation levels, respiration rates, heart rate variability, and even mental stress levels in just seconds, can result in a more accurate diagnosis or ability to better adjust current treatment plans for chronic conditions. An “AI nurse” could easily step in to help with administrative and repetitive work, letting human nurses concentrate on work than need a human touch.

Solutions such as remote patient monitoring provides patients, caregivers, and home health aides alike, the ability to record critical information such as a patient’s vital signs, physical and mental state, eating patterns, and medication adherence. Data such as this can be quickly uploaded and shared with all members of the care team, including care managers, physicians and family members. With the right system, hundreds of important health data points per patient per month can be provided and recorded, further transcending the barriers to communication and delivering a new caliber of care.

Reducing Costs
Many top care facilities across the country experienced financial strain as patients opted out of elective procedures — some even putting off more critical care — due to fear of contracting Covid-19. However, integrating the opportunity to cut down in-person visits through the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring technology can afford financial benefits to healthcare providers and patients alike, and perhaps change the outcome this time around. Virtual visits can help increase patient retention, streamline time on task, improve appointment compliance, lower overhead costs, increase care outreach to underserved locations and lower in-person liability.

One milestone to increasing the level of care provided by telehealth visits will be the standard use of remote monitoring solutions that can extract vital signs without the need for wearables, wires or cuffs.  This means the medical staff can receive from the patient accurate readouts and quality care with zero additional investment on their end, as long as they have access to a smart device such as an iPhone, Android, tablet or personal computer. For providers, this means a larger patient pool, more patient adherence to treatment and an easy path to adoption.

As we unwillingly enter into what could be the “fourth wave” of Covid-19, healthcare professionals can be better set up for success this time.  Advanced new technology can be more embraced to help them free time of administrative work and dedicate it to more quality time to patients. As these new types of solutions are on a path to FDA approval, they are still not cleared for use in medical decision-making, but with such info, you are still able to start a basic patient screening/triage. The unprecedented events of 2020 have made us wiser and stronger, and we can now better prepare for what’s ahead with modern technology and hope.

Photo: FG Trade, Getty Images

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