Telehealth: Lessons from COVID-19 and the Outlook for the Home Healthcare Movement

By Matt Jones, Regional Sales Manager, Healthcare Division of Connect America | June 9, 2020

As the need for social distancing continues and people are increasingly encouraged to stay at home whenever possible, Home and Community-Based Service providers (HCBS) are introducing new telehealth resources to give their high-risk and vulnerable older adult populations desperately needed care and support. These tools are available to HCBS providers due, in part, to support from payors who see the necessity and efficacy of telehealth solutions, such as remote patient monitoring (RPM), during the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing. This support has led home health providers to build out more robust RPM-dependent programs than ever before.

COVID-19 Highlights Telehealth and the Operational Successes of Home Healthcare

COVID-19 has been a driving force in the acceleration and proliferation of RPM capabilities and programs. The pandemic forced much of healthcare to move online, but the experience has taught providers and patients alike that quality is often enhanced, not diminished, with telehealth services. Hospitals and health systems across the country have explored telehealth for their therapeutic services during the pandemic.

While research has already established telehealth’s ability to lower hospitalization rates, especially readmission rates, and to improve patient outcomes, other qualitative benefits have recently come to light. These benefits, which overlap with all areas of healthcare, elevate the role of home healthcare providers going forward and inform health decision-makers everywhere. These additional benefits include:

  • Complex and chronic cases are ideally suited to telehealth due to its continuous monitoring.
  • Physician and nurse burnout can be avoided with the greater reliance on non-skilled workers that telehealth permits.

Seniors and other high-risk patients at home derive both medical and psychological benefits from continuous monitoring and self-directed care. The round-the-clock access and attunement to patients, through vital sign and medication monitoring, delivers precise and personalized healthcare as well as peace of mind. Reports throughout the pandemic have shown that feeling tethered to a care provider, from the safety of one’s home, brings a tremendous sense of comfort to patients and their families, and diminishes feelings of social isolation.

Remote monitoring mitigates social determinants of health, such as a lack of literacy, transportation and food security. These social factors have traditionally taxed providers and interfered with optimal healthcare in vulnerable populations. However, with the use of telehealth, doctors, advanced practitioners, nurses and all program supervisors can deploy non-skilled workers to greater effect. Additionally, patients can stay in place and providers can more accurately assess stresses in the home. The home health setting demonstrates this clearly.

CMS-Sanctioned Expansion of Telehealth Services

Changes to healthcare reimbursements are enabling the wide adoption of telehealth necessitated by the pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, telehealth had already been gaining momentum within CMS. Since 2008, CMS adopted value-based programs instead of volume-based programs, emphasizing quality and rewarding healthcare providers who deliver better care to individual patients and to populations, and who do so at a lower cost.

Telehealth-based programs sit in that sweet spot that deliver on all fronts. They immediately cut costs while optimizing the delivery of precise and personalized medicine. RPM technology in particular is now embedded in every major therapeutic field. It solves high-level medical challenges as well as everyday practical problems. As to the latter, getting to the provider’s office is, traditionally, a social problem and a factor in condition management. It’s been a problem plaguing low-income patients, young adults unable to take off from work to make appointments and people who live far from the provider they need to see, according to a report published in the journal Health Services Research.

In the midst of a global pandemic, seeing a provider requires a new paradigm for healthcare delivery. While telehealth had become a core platform in hospitals and in many private practices, now it’s the new face of healthcare, and standout RPM programs are distinguishing healthcare leaders.

The Outlook for HCBS in the New Era of Healthcare Delivery

Now with more CMS-backed telehealth options, HCBS leaders are expanding their programs to include more seniors (with moderate and minor conditions), more conditions and more social determinants of health. As the lines are blurred between home and hospital, more populations stand to benefit from RPM and its varied uses. As our understanding deepens about factors that contribute to health and wellness, social and psychological determinants may take on greater medical significance. And because these determinants are increasingly measured and tied to home and community settings, home healthcare will be a leader in this movement.

Connect America provides training to home healthcare professionals on how to educate patients on the deployment and proper use of innovative medical devices and how to educate the healthcare team on best practices with RPM technology.

As a leader in the industry, Connect America has developed sophisticated solutions for home healthcare to reduce hospital readmission rates, more effectively manage chronic and complex diseases, mitigate social isolation issues and improve patient outcomes by increasing clinical touch points and patient engagement and education through self-directed care models. These solutions include:

  • Connect America RPM powered by our proprietary ConnectVitals Insights Engine: The technology platform’s analytics alerts health professionals of trends in patient vitals, allowing the provider to get out in front of emerging problems and adjust their care plan to improve outcomes.
  • Medication Management: These solutions provide cellular compliance monitoring and reporting features for safer dosing and consistency in care.
  • Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS): PERS solutions provide access to emergency help wherever patients are.
  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR) for Assessments: With an IVR phone call program in place, HCBS caregivers have the ability to assess patients at home as often as needed and quickly react to any changes. IVR phone calls provide a cost-saving way to support general health and wellness on a daily basis and to achieve objectives, such as lowered readmission rates, reduced hospital and emergency room visits and improved patient outcomes.

Connect America RPM can offer your HCBS organization the RPM solution it needs to be effective during COVID-19 and beyond. To learn more about our solutions or schedule a webinar, please contact Matt Jones at matthew.jones@connectamerica.com.

Matt Jones is Regional Sales Manager of the Healthcare Division of Connect America. Headquartered in Bala Cynwyd, PA with regional offices nationwide, Connect America offers a growing portfolio of leading medical alert systems, remote patient monitoring, and medication management solutions. With products and services designed to improve patient outcomes and contain the rising costs of healthcare, Connect America has been partnering with home healthcare and Medicaid agencies, hospitals, managed care and other healthcare organizations to deliver cutting-edge healthcare technologies to patients and individuals across the country for more than 35 years.